SEMINOLE — Veronica Harbage, 9, has “always been a helper,” said her mother, Sharon Potts.
The Bardmoor Elementary School third-grader is the type of kid who always lends a hand, her mother added. The type to split her dessert in equal parts to share with her cousins. The type of older sister to help around the house and watch her 3-year-old brother.
So, when the teacher for her gifted class, which meets once a week, challenged students to find a way to give back to the community, Veronica easily came up with her project. She wanted to support the Blessing Box.
Nearly two years ago, a local woman, Michelle Radin, installed the Blessing Box near the entrance of the Seminole Community Library, 9200 113th St. N. Similar to Little Free Libraries, individuals can take or leave items as needed. Items range from food to hygiene products, cleaning supplies, even shoes and socks.
Veronica and her family were already supporters of the Blessing Box.
“We come here and donate stuff so often,” she said. “I thought it was a really creative idea and I really like the Blessing Box. When I had to do a project for gifted, I wanted to do the Blessing Box.”
Potts added, “We were doing it already. So naturally, it popped up when she had to do the project. We liked that it went right back into the community and wasn’t just giving money to places. The intention was that it was a simple project so that [the students] could see it was really easy to find something they could do to give back to the community.”
The Blessing Box touches everyone in the community, Potts said.
“Anybody who walks by and needs something, a granola bar, a bottle of water, can just take it. You don’t have to be needy,” she said. “It’s just a pleasant little thing for anybody in the community who needs something. No questions.”
Veronica and her mother reached out to family and friends for donations, pooling together resources. They collected old baby clothes, shoes, hair bows and food items. They even put together toothbrush packs.
Even weeks after the project, the family keeps the items they collected on hand whenever they go to the library in case the Blessing Box has room.
“It kind of lives in my car now,” Potts said.
Radin said she’s grateful for the support of families like Veronica and her mother. She has a handful of others she also relies on to keep the box stocked, including Palma M. Shrum and Tami Grzesikowski.
“I really depend on them to stock and tend to the box when I travel, and I frequently travel,” Radin said. “They never let me down.”
Recently, Tom Grzesikowski and Jim Watts stepped up to repair and repaint the Blessing Box, which was in need of the work after two years of use by the community.
In an email, Watts said he feels “blessed” to have helped on the project.
“It feels good to do a little something that might brighten someone else’s day,” he wrote.
He added, “My mind’s eye sees an elderly person picking something from the box on his/her way out of the library. It could be a bar of soap, a stick of deodorant or a can of soup, whatever they are in need of that makes their life a little bit easier.”
Radin said that she’s amazed by how frequently the Blessing Box is used.
“The demand never ends,” she said. “The minute we stock it, the next morning it's empty.”
She added, “I am now aware that hunger knows no seasons. This project never slows down. I think what is most rewarding is when I'm stocking the box and a person comes up to take items, they tell me how grateful they are and how it has given them hope. It literally gets them through another day.”
She’s always accepting donations for the Blessing Box, she said.
“We are always in need of canned food, drinks, deodorant, bars of soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, sunscreen and really anything that isn't perishable,” she said.