Community Gift Boxes
A few years ago the church I was a member of started a Food Pantry as an outreach to our Community. The Food Pantry dispensed Emergency Food Boxes twice monthly to all people in our community in need of food who met the state income requirements. They did not have to attend our church or any church as the Food Pantry was completely separate. All we wanted to do was to help people who were hungry obtain some food.
The state governing agency contract did not allow us as a Food Pantry to “solicit” people with “religious” materials. We could not hand out anything spiritual or religious in nature to people, nor initiate spiritual conversations with them, but we could make spiritual items available to them free on tables in our foyer and if they chose to pick them up and take them then that was okay.
So, as a church outreach, apart from the Food Pantry, we decided to do something to help people’s needs in our community, not only physically, but also spiritually. I presented an idea to make available small “Gift Boxes” during the Holiday months of November and December filled with items that people may need but that are not stocked in the Food Pantry. Small, inexpensive items like toiletries, sundries, pens, notepads, etc. Non-food items that are needed, useful or perhaps just a nice treat. The “Gift Boxes” would be offered free to take from a table in our church foyer. They would not be in our Food Pantry, therefore, each box could contain something spiritual—ie: a small bible, tract, scripture verse, inspirational booklet, bookmark, etc. They would not be given to people coming to the Pantry but would be available to them as a free choice from our church.
We felt that these “Gift Boxes” were a way for us as a church to reach out spiritually to people as well as physically and so meet needs that otherwise might not be met.
As a church body, we had just learned in the book of Ephesians that “We have all benefited from the rich blessings He (Jesus) brought to us—one gracious blessing after another.” (John 1:16) So in making up the “Gift Boxes” we could.. “Do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so we enjoy its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:23)
Our containers were empty tissue boxes. I think many of the tissue boxes today are too pretty to just throw away when they are emptied, so by using them as containers for this project they were put to a good use instead of just being thrown out, besides they were readily available containers that were free and they could easily and economically be filled with useful items that people need daily but that aren’t provided by Food Pantries or Food Stamps, ie: toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, socks, comb, brush, etc. or just fun things, like candy, gum, pencils, glue, playing cards, etc. Some boxes were specifically labeled for a man, woman, child, baby, depending on the items they contained. Some were just left un-labeled and contained items that would be suitable to anyone.
We had two rules:
- All items had to be of a size that was able to fit into the tissue box. When we went shopping we took along an empty tissue box to fill as we shopped just to be sure everything fit.
- Since this was a church outreach, every box had to contain at least one spiritual item, because the purpose was not only to meet people’s physical needs but to also meet their spiritual needs.
We decorated the outsides of the boxes individually or sometimes we just brought them to church and let the children decorate them as an activity.
Our first group of boxes was set out just before Thanksgiving and the next group just before Christmas.
The outreach went very well. People readily took them and they were so appreciative.
If you are interested in doing this type of outreach as a church or youth group activity, I would encourage you to start saving empty tissue boxes now to begin getting ready for this Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a fun and rewarding project that blesses the givers as well as the receivers. If your church doesn’t have a Food Pantry perhaps you could partner with one that does.