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You might notice small pantry shelves dotting the coast from Summerville to downtown Charleston and north to McClellanville.
Built out of old kitchen cabinets and just big enough to hold a supply of non perishable goods, these miniature kitchen pantries are part of the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project, the brainchild of attorney Katie Dahlheim.
Dahlheim, who works at the Charleston County Attorney’s Office, started the project in 2017 after reading a story about a woman in Arkansas who placed a Little Free Pantry in her yard. Based on the Little Free Library concept of “take a book, share a book,” the Little Free Pantry movement launched miniature pantries full of non-perishable items to alleviate food insecurity. ?Inspired by Little Free Pantry founder Jessica McClard and wanting to help people around Charleston, Dahlheim built pantries of her own out of old kitchen cabinets.
“Something we can all agree on is that we can all stand to be kinder to one another,” says Dahlheim.
She placed her first four pantries, which she dubbed Blessing Boxes, in high-foot traffic areas around Charleston and filled them with non-perishable food and toiletries.
The concept is simple, leave what you can, take what you need. Through the power of social media, the four boxes grew to 92 Blessing Boxes across the Charleston area.
The growth of the project led to Dahlheim and volunteers to organize other community events. In the past two years, people who work for the project have met others who work with marginalized communities to expand their reach. For example, the Charleston County Bar Association Outreach Committee collaborated with Dahlheim and her Blessing Box team to organize and fund Free Laundry Days in Charleston’s underserved East Side neighborhood. Attorneys across the region have pitched in to help spread kindness. ?John Loy, Deputy Public Defender for Dorchester County hosts a Blessing Box at his house, and the Law Office of Deluca Maucher hosts a Blessing Box at their Goose Creek office.
The Blessing Box Project is growing and has no intentions of stopping. The project was built on two simple words.
“Our focus is and must always be kindness and love,” says Dahlheim. “Anonymous giving is kindness without judgement. We need not agree on anything else.”
In the spring, the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project partnered with I Heart Hungry Kids, Queen Street Hospitality Group and the Charleston Restaurant Foundation for the “Catch Up on Lunch” initiative. ?The goal is to erase student lunch debt for children in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties.
Together, these groups raised more than $25,000 and paid off the entire past due lunch debt for students at Flowertown Elementary, Philip Simmons Elementary, CE Williams Middle and Stiles Point Elementary.
The Blessing Box Project family is looking to grow. If you’re interested in volunteering and helping Dahlheim be kind to people in your neighborhood, send her an email at email@example.com or find the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project on social media at @chsblessingbox.? ?