GREENFIELD — Dianna Adams and her friend, Cheyenne Wells, can’t help but look at the two new Blessing Boxes in Riley Park and smile.
The two Greenfield women, along with their husbands, installed the boxes in the park last month as a means of providing food and toiletries to those in need.
They were inspired to do so after hearing about the level of homelessness in the city, although the supplies within the boxes are available to anyone in need. The couples take turns checking on the cabinets and restocking the shelves a couple times each week.
“No sooner than we put stuff in, stuff is getting taken out,” said Adams, whose husband, Jason, painted and sealed the cabinets they purchased at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Greenfield. He painted them gray with white trim, added glass doors to the food cabinet and decorative lettering to both.
Wells and her husband, Matt, were happy to partner in the effort to assist those in need.
As a real estate agent who frequently traverses the county, Wells has been inspired by the different blessings boxes she’s seen popping up throughout Hancock County and beyond.
“There will always be a need to feed, especially with the year we’ve just had, and these boxes are a great way to help people put food on the table,” she said.
The couples thought Riley Park near downtown Greenfield would be the perfect location for the boxes.
Adams reached out to the mayor’s office and parks department for permission to place them near the park’s tennis courts.
Josh Gentry, maintenance foreman for the Greenfield Parks Department, assisted with the installation.
“This is a community project. It’s been a phenomenal partnership and outreach,” Adams said.
She and Wells have promoted the blessing boxes through social media and word-of-mouth.
They started with one box but quickly built another after the first cabinet was emptied out so quickly. Now one holds non-perishable food items, while the other holds toiletries and household supplies.
“It’s been doing phenomenally well,” Adams said. “So many people have donated to it, and it’s getting used regularly.”
The supplies aren’t just there for the homeless, but are available to anyone in need. “I don’t care if the person walks up in a three-piece suit. There’s no judgment. We want to embrace anyone who needs a helping hand,” Adams said.
She also encourages anyone who wants to contribute to restock the shelves whenever they’re able. She knows some people who drive from the east side of Indianapolis to stock the cabinets, as well as a couple who are fairly new to town who were looking for a way to connect with the community.
The pantry has gotten so full at times that Adams and Wells have posted signage directing people where to donate elsewhere in the city, like the local soup kitchen or other blessings boxes throughout town.
They prefer donations of nonperishable foods and new household items and toiletries, except for razors, which are discouraged.
Andrea Mallory, director of the Hancock Hope House, the county’s homeless shelter, said the homeless in particular can benefit from individually wrapped foods like protein bars.
“During the frigid temperatures, those looking for warmth and shelter need water, some type of (wrapped food), socks, gloves, deodorant, Chapstick, tissues, a toothbrush and toothpaste,” she said.
Adams and Wells are thankful to the community members who help keep the blessing boxes stocked for those in need.
The two friends and their husbands hatched the idea for the boxes last summer, when they considered adding one in their neighborhood, Indigo Springs, but opted to focus on Riley Park instead. The couples recently got approval from their neighborhood to install a blessing box of books, otherwise known as a Little Library, which they plan to do soon.
“That means I’m headed back to the ReStore to pick up another cabinet,” Adams said with a laugh. “The guy there loves seeing pictures of the things we’ve done with them.”
Both she and Wells are bonded by a shared love of giving.
Adams accumulates donations in her garage for a number of causes and entities, including Hope House, Life Choices and Journey Bags organizations.
She, her husband and some friends recently filled 20 backpacks with hats, gloves, scarves and hygiene items to distribute to the local homeless. They sought out recipients in person and also passed out the backpacks at the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen, from the trunk of their cars parked out front.
“I like to show love by giving,” said Adams. “That’s what fulfills me.”
Wells also loves the chance to help others in the community she calls home. “The blessing boxes provide a form of giving that’s attainable and long-lasting,” she said, “which is exactly what we were trying to do.”