What a blessing: Blessing Boxes project fosters a network of giving

“Give what you can, take what you need.”

This simple yet profound ethos birthed a transformative movement in Sandusky, initiated by Andrew Werner and his son, Kyle, in response to encountering a Navy veteran in need. Their act of kindness laid the foundation for the Blessing Box project, setting off a chain reaction of compassion and community support.

“Kyle and I were shopping; we came out of the store and there was a man wearing a blue baseball-type hat with the name of the ship he had served on while in the Navy.  He was with his wife, asking people if they had food they could spare. We asked what they would like and went into the store for ingredients to make a few meals,” recall Andrew and Kyle. 

Andrew and Kyle’s encounter ignited a spark. Andrew, a Scoutmaster, and Kyle, an Eagle Scout, decided to act. What emerged were miniature wooden food pantries—Blessing Boxes—scattered across public areas, each carrying the fundamental principle of mutual aid:  take what you need and leave what you can.

Supported by the dedicated efforts of Boy Scout Troop 44, five Blessing Boxes were designed, hand-crafted, and posted in locations across Sandusky.  

Kyle Werner stands with one of the blessing boxes he built.Kyle enlisted the help of his mother to secure the location for the boxes at area churches.  

“It was fun to build the Blessing Boxes and see them installed at their final locations,” Kyle says. “Started out that my father and I were purchasing canned and boxed food items to stock the boxes every few weeks. Eventually, the church congregations and community started donating to the boxes directly.”

Rev. Lenore Kure of First Congregational United Church of Christ, says that the Blessing Box at her congregation is a popular location.

“Ours is a terribly busy box with both givers and receivers visiting it daily,” Kure says. “The receivers include those in our neighborhood who are in need, as well as anyone else who can benefit from what we have.

“They come by foot, bike, or car at all hours of the day and night and sometimes bring items themselves. I suspect these are things they received from other food pantries that they won't be using.”

Beyond just offering food, these boxes have become symbols of hope and solidarity. They’ve fostered empathy within the community, emphasizing that everyone has a role to play in supporting those facing adversity. What began as a response to immediate hunger evolved into a powerful movement—citizens coming together to tackle food insecurity with compassion. 

“Members of Leadership Erie County group met here [First Congregational UCC] in November bringing with them donations for the blessing box,” Kure says.

However, sustaining these Blessing Boxes comes with challenges, especially during harsh winters. The initiative had to pivot toward stocking less canned food and focus on non-perishable items that are not temperature sensitive. 

“Canned goods do not do well in cold temperatures,” Andrew explains. “The food freezes and the cans explode. Dry food that can withstand freezing temperatures and is best for winter.” 

The care and maintenance of the boxes falls on Scout Troop 44, too. The weather conditions can cause box doors to stick, and latches to not function properly. 
“The churches notify us, and we make the repairs as needed,” Andrew says. 

Yet, the unwavering support from the community and churches ensured these boxes remain filled with essential items.

The Blessing Box movement transcends physical locations. Online platforms like Facebook’s Box of Blessings group have emerged, amassing more than 3,000 members. This digital extension serves as a virtual space where members can both request and donate items, expanding the movement’s reach and strengthening the bonds within the community.

According to the About section of the Facebook page, “Box of Blessings is a page to help people with needs for everyday living. You may post asking for things you need, or you can post to give an item away.”

The page also notes, “For quick access to food, a Blessing Box is located at 607 Shelby Street, Sandusky. All are welcome to drop items off or take what you need.”
Popular items stocked in these Blessing Boxes:
  • Non-perishable food items including peanut butter or cheese cracker packs, protein bars, granola, macaroni and cheese or nuts
  • Canned food with pull-tab opening
  • Baby essentials like food, diapers, and wipes
  • Hygiene items such as toilet papers and feminine products
  • Warm clothing like socks, mittens, hats, hand warmers, and blankets
To further support this movement:
  • Donate: Offer non-perishable items to local Blessing Boxes
  • Engage: Participate in online communities like Box of Blessings on Facebook 
  • Support: Extend aid through initiatives like the Salvation Army’s drive-up Blessing Box located at 3333 Columbus Ave.
  • Join: Become a Scout. For details visit, beascout.scouting.org or contact Scoutmaster Andrew Werner at (419) 871-1881.
Scout Troop Blessing Box Locations: 
Father’s Heart Family Church, 2211 Mills St.
First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1158 Cleveland Road
First Presbyterian Church of Sandusky, 265 Jackson St.
Zion Lutheran Church of Sandusky, 503 Columbus Ave.
Eagle Nest Church International, 2126 Pipe St.