Pay it Forward with Southern Blessings:
An Interview with Blessing Boxes Founder Katie Dahlheim 
by Jennifer Iamele Savage

How did your organization get started?

In February, I read about The Little Free Pantry, which was started in Arkansas by Jessica McClard. I loved the idea and wanted to put one at my house, but I live in a cul-de-sac and didn't think it would be a good location. So I started brainstorming how I could be involved and decided to build four Blessing Boxes (I liked “Blessing Box” better because this is the South and we like to bless things!). I made the first four and took to Facebook to find locations.

I did many interviews and the word spread quickly. Folks started making and placing their own boxes. I added these to our list of locations, which is updated every Tuesday and posted on our Facebook page.

We had a Construction Day event in June, at which my friend Brad Fogle, who is a construction professional, assisted our group in building eight boxes in one afternoon.  The last two boxes from Construction Day should be going up soon.

How do you serve the lowcountry?

Blessing Boxes are stocked with nonperishable food items, basic toiletries, baby supplies, and anything else that might be considered a blessing to someone who finds themselves in need. Items are anonymously donated and anonymously received. A simple rule applies: Leave what you can; take what you need.

Studies show adults with food insecurity will skip meals or reduce their portions to provide for children as they wait for payday. Many food insecure families do not qualify for the assistance of food banks, or are hesitant to turn to them due to the stigma. One “bad month” can be enough to force a family to choose between buying food and paying bills. This is the purpose of our project—to bridge this gap.

 What volunteer opportunities do you have for the public?

Build and place your own Blessing Box (BB). There are no specifications or requirements as to size, shape or color. Many of our boxes are repurposed from old cabinets. Once your box is ready, send us photos and the location, and we will add it to our list! We also have decals if you'd like to use them.

Visit the BB nearest you and keep it stocked. Keep it clean and free of trash and bugs. Spread the word about our project to others and encourage them to donate. Here are our donation guidelines: 

1. It is hot in the lowcountry. Please be mindful that the items may stay in the box for a period of time. Best not to leave things that could explode or will go bad in the heat.

2. This is not a place for expired food. If you wouldn't use it yourself, don't leave it in the box.

3. Handwritten notes spreading our message of kindness to our neighbors are encouraged, and a great way to get kids involved too!

4. No clothing or books. While we think both would be appreciated, the boxes are not big enough to accommodate larger items.

5. Toiletries and baby care items are welcome.

6. School supplies and pet food are welcome!

What have been some of the greatest successes of your organization?

We are building a network of kind, community-involved people. We just got our first thank you note in the BB in Summerville. It was a reminder that real people are benefiting from our efforts. We currently have 21 Blessing Boxes placed all over the greater Charleston area and are looking forward to expand those numbers in 2018.

Dahlheim encourages all readers to pay it forward by creating a Blessing Box to kick off the new year. It is simple, but its impact will bring blessings to both the recipient as well as the giver.

Jennifer Iamele Savage is a transformational life coach and a secondary Montessori educator. Passionate about raising consciousness, Savage uses these containers to help people find their voice and empower them to utilize their resources. Connect with her at Jen@InspirationAndBliss.com or InpsirationAndBliss.com.