‘Take what you need, give what you can’
A few months ago, local high school students Colin Nemeth and Maddie Biad, both members of St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church, were looking for a meaningful Lenten project to undertake. They began traveling around after church on Sundays to make donations to “blessing boxes” placed throughout the region. The boxes hold donations of non-perishable food items and can be used by anyone in need.
“Take what you need, give what you can,” said Nemeth, sharing the mission behind the boxes.
But then the two had an idea: Why couldn’t they build one themselves to serve residents in their own community?
“We heard about the blessing box projects around Charleston and decided it would be a great idea to help the community,” said Biad, who attends Bishop England High School. “And then the pandemic hit, and food was especially needed.”
But the teens needed to find a good location for a box. There were already several on the Cainhoy peninsula – three in the Cainhoy/Huger community and one at Philip Simmons Elementary School. There was not one on the lower end of the peninsula, however, near Daniel Island. At the suggestion of Colin’s mother, Mary Nemeth, they focused on St. James AME Church on Thomas Island. They knew the Daniel Island community would provide good support.
“It was the perfect location,” said Nemeth, a student at Philip Simmons High.
They got permission from the church pastor, Rev. E. Dingle Stokes, and enlisted their good friend Tripp Simpson to lend his building skills to the project. Simpson and his father took care of construction, while Biad and Nemeth handled the painting of the box. They decided to create a stained glass window design that seemed fitting for the location. The group installed the new box on the church grounds on the weekend of May 9-10. While there, a few people from the area offered thanks for the addition.
“It was cool to hear that people were already grateful for it, before it was even full of food or in use,” said Nemeth.
A student at Philip Simmons High School, Simpson works at Martin’s BBQ on James Island, where there is a blessing box across the street.
“Every day I am there I see multiple people a day come and refill it, as well as many people come and take things from it,” he said. “I hope to accomplish that goal on Thomas Island, where the community can come together and help one another out. Especially in a time where people need it like now. With this blessing box it makes it so easy for people just to put food in there and know they are helping someone out who needs it.”
Stokes expressed her thanks for the box and is confident it will be of great benefit to those less fortunate.
“On behalf of my presiding prelate of the 7th Episcopal District Bishop Samuel Lawrence Green Sr. and my presiding elder of the Mount Pleasant District Dr. Juenarrl Keith, and all the officers and members of the St. James AME Church family, we will forever be grateful for the time and efforts put forth in placing a blessing box in our community,” said Stokes. “We would like to thank Colin, Maddie and Tripp for adding such a special gift for those that are in need.”
For more information on the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project, visit chsblessingbox.wixsite.com/home.