Jeffersonville Township Public Library Marketing Assistant Blake Oliver and Library Director David Seckman show off the Blessing Box at the library on Court Street in Jeffersonville. The box is stocked two to three times per day and empties out quickly. Libby Cunningham | News and Tribune
Jeffersonville Township Public Library Marketing Assistant Blake Oliver and Library Director David Seckman show off the Blessing Box at the library on Court Street in Jeffersonville. The box is stocked two to three times per day and empties out quickly. Libby Cunningham | News and Tribune
JEFFERSONVILLE — For some people in Southern Indiana, the food they get from freestanding pantries across the region is sometimes the only thing they eat in a day.

That’s what a note left recently in the Blessing Box at the Jeffersonville Township Public Library said.

“Use has been pretty off the charts,” said Library Director David Seckman. “We check it at least a couple of times a day. More or less, things are pretty well cleaned out by the end of the day.”

That’s why the library conducted a session last week to teach people how to erect a similar freestanding pantry, or donation box, in their own area.

“I didn’t realize the need was so great,” Seckman said. “We’ve had people leave notes in there thanking us for providing this.”

Local artist Jinn Bug joined Howard Park Christian Church parishioner Angie Rice Vittitow in hosting the event. The pair guided people on the ins and outs of providing this kind of help in their neighborhoods.

They touched on how to install a structure that can store things like canned goods, toiletries and even books for people who are in need in the community.

“There are are a lot of creative things. People have begun to use storage benches, for little free panties or libraries,” Bug said. “You don’t’ have to be ultra-fancy if you want to do something.”

Bug said she offers goods and books in Clarksville at her home, and Vittitow runs a pantry through her church.

The pair offered a wealth of information from their experiences.

Before someone installs a pantry in their area they need to make sure the location is accessible, in a safe location and faces north or east, so the sun doesn’t spoil food inside of it, they said.

They suggested people let neighbors know of their intent to install a box and then keep up with the need and demand.

Bug said sometimes people are worried about liability when it comes to installing a pantry, however, homeowners insurance will often cover any issues.

Jeffersonville Township Public Library Marketing Assistant Blake Oliver said that at the library they often stock two to three times per day.

Things like canned fruits, vegetables, breakfast bars, shelf stable milks and toiletries are popular in these pantries.

Oliver said people can drop off donations at the library if they have any extra goods to donate.

According to the Little Free Pantry, a non-profit organization that tracks these locations, as of September 2021, there were more than 2,200 of these donation sites nationwide.

The location at the library has been around for about three months.

“We were contacted by the Vision One Credit Union asking if we would be interested,” Seckman said, noting the impetus came when he was in Leadership Southern Indiana.

“We toured the Center for Lay Ministries, I talked to the director over there, I was curious on how we could collaborate more with them. She suggested the blessing box would be one way.”

Libraries provide community services, so the Blessing Box is a natural way to give back, he said.

He and Oliver showed off the box, which had been full recently. Only a few packs of crackers and spaghetti were left, meaning people had been able to use the donations inside.

“One of the concepts from in the session is how hyperlocal these are,” Oliver said. “People who are walking by or driving by. We are a high traffic area...it would be great to see more of these out and about.”

There are freestanding pantries at Howard Park Christian Church, 450 West Norwood Avenue, Clarksville; First Baptist Church, 2402 East 10th Street, Jeffersonville; Saint Mark’s United Church of Christ, 222 East Spring Street, New Albany, and Family Fellowship Church of the Nazarene, 13915 Green Street in Palmyra.
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