McDowell Presbyterian Church Installs “Blessing Box” To Help Those In Need of Food


Helping a neighbor can be as easy as putting an item of food on a shelf.  Husband and wife duo, Greg and Pastor Mary Robinson, spoke with Allegheny Mountain Radio about a recent addition to Highland County placed by the McDowell Presbyterian Church.  It’s a small, outdoor wooden pantry on a post called a “Blessing Box.”  Greg Robinson has more.

Mr. Robinson begins, “We recently installed a Blessing Box outside of the McDowell Presbyterian Church with food in it, and the food is available to anyone who does not have food for a meal.  They might be a little short on a particular paycheck.  They may not have a paycheck, and if they need some food for themselves, for their children, whatever the need might be, they can pull on up and help themselves.  No one is there to administer it.  There are no requirements.  There are no hours.  There are no procedures.  Come to the box.  Open the door.  Take what you need, and shut the door.  That’s it!  We don’t care who it is, as long as they need food, or somebody needs food.  If you’re helping a needy person by getting food from that box, that’s fine.  No one is making any form of judgment about this at all.”

Anyone may contribute by adding food to lend a helping hand.  Greg continues, “What we say on the Blessing Box is ‘Take what you need.  Give if you can.’  And we know that there is a Girl Scout group that is going to do this for a while, and put food in it.  So far, it’s fairly new, and it’s staying pretty full.  I hope that that means nobody is going hungry, but I would like to be hopeful that people will get whatever they need.”

The food that is added should have a long shelf life.  With the harvesting of garden produce in the area now, even home-canned foods can be provided to give back.  “There are no qualifications, other than we would prefer that it be non-perishable items,” says Greg.  “This is not the place to leave your extra zucchini or a loaf of bread.  It just won’t last, so canned foods, packaged foods that have a long expiration date are the best for this setting.”

The idea for the Blessing Box was sparked by a social media post.  After viewing a Blessing Box at First Baptist Church in Waynesboro, Virginia, the McDowell Presbyterian Church commissioned Timothy Heatwole to build a similar one.  Mr. Robinson continues, “Mary and I have always worried a bit about people who are going without, and going without food is especially sensitive.  A recent Brookings Institute report said that somewhere between 11% and 16% of families or households have some degree of food insecurity.  Now, you can define that in many different ways, but, essentially, it means there’s not enough food for someone to have a meal that particular day, maybe no meal that day, so that’s a pretty high percentage.  Even in a small population like Highland County, that would mean somewhere in the order of a couple hundred people, and that’s really, uh, troubling.  And if we can put some food in an easily accessible spot on the side of the road, and anybody can come and help themselves without question, and that fills a need, the church would feel much better that that’s happening.”

As far as we know, the Blessing Box behind the church is the only one of its kind in the county so far, though anyone can put one up, from organizations to families.  The location of the Blessing Box is on Rt. 678, or Bullpasture River Road, between McDowell Presbyterian Church and the McDowell Volunteer Fire Department Station.

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Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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