Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Inside the box


Churches in Northern Prairie offer food for the taking

Looking out his office window, Pastor Rob Harris of Tonkawa United Methodist Church sees blessings flowing from what amounts to a small kitchen cabinet mounted on posts on the church grounds.

Tonkawa UMC, and other churches in the Northern Prairie District, are installing Blessing Boxes. The wooden boxes, with clear acrylic doors, contain several shelves that hold free food.

A sign at the box reads: “Leave what you can. Take what you need. Remember, God loves us all.”

Rev. Harris frequently sees people in vehicles pause beside the box to get food. Others come along and put in groceries they’re donating.

“The blessing is equal with the people who go to the box who may need to get the food out and people who put things into the box,” Harris said.

“God placed within us the need to be in relationship with one another.”

The project started after David Nichols, husband of Northern Prairie District Superintendent Tish Malloy, visited a church service at Tonkawa to suggest the boxes as one way of addressing food insecurity in that community.

The idea was shared on the church’s Facebook page. “It just took off right away,” Harris said.

The Blessing Box is near one of Tonkawa’s schools. Harris said it is a frequent stop for students on the way to classes or after school.

“It’s a great ministry. It cost the church nothing,” he said.

Fourteen such boxes have been built in the woodworking shop at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa.

So far, Blessing Boxes also have been placed at the United Methodist churches in Newkirk, Ringwood, and Pawhuska — all in the Northern Prairie District. The remaining boxes are being stored by the district and available when a church in the district requests one.

Churches generally pay $125 to get a box, Nichols said, although the cost is flexible.

Each box is meant to hold non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food. Donations of diapers or games and toys for children also are welcomed.

Harris said people have been generous in stocking the Blessing Box at Tonkawa. Sometimes the box gets too full, and a few items are put aside at the church until there’s room on the shelves.

Another box will be installed in Tonkawa near the Wesley Foundation at NOC. Harris expects it will offer supplies in frequent demand by cash-strapped college students, such as Ramen noodles, deodorant, soap, and shampoo.

Nichols is glad to share information with churches outside Northern Prairie if they want to start a program like this. Contact him at 405-640-4589.

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Tonkawa youths restock the Blessing Box outside the church.

At the Pawhuska church, volunteers stock a Blessing Box for the first time after installing it.


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