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Bakersfield woman sets up Blessing Box: 'It's for anybody in need'

The Blessing Box is seen containing various anonymous donations. It is located at the corner of Real Road and Stockdale Highway in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo/Carol Ferguson)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - A Bakersfield woman hopes to help the needy, and she's set up a box filled with food and hygiene items. It sits next to a church parking lot, and she said anyone can take what they need. And, anyone can help refill it.

Carol O'Connor said she heard about the "Blessing Box" idea, and she was inspired.

"I've been trying to give back to the community," O'Connor told Eyewitness News on Friday. "What a simple thing, and yet it's giving back to the community so much."

The red box sits next to the parking lot of the First Congregational Church at Stockdale Highway and Real Road. It's been there for three weeks, and word is getting out in the community O'Connor hopes to help.

"I think it's great, it's wonderful," Jackee Johnson said. She was sitting in Saunders Park with a handful of people who were cooking on a barbecue.

Johnson said she's homeless and hasn't been to the Blessing Box yet, but she had heard about it.

Michael didn't give his last name, but he had been by the box, got some water and met a woman who was putting things into it.

"She just gave me a water and stuff," he said. "I just traded in a canned product," Michael said he had put in some canned peaches, which he'd gotten from a food bank.

That doesn't surprise O'Connor. She's met a man who comes by regularly, and she thinks he could be a veteran.

"He didn't take anything. He says, 'I'm going to tell my friends in the park,'" O'Connor said.

She said he did take some applesauce one day, saying that's something he really likes.

"He would only take what he needs," she said. "That's what amazes me. Here these people have so much less, and they only take what they need."

The box is filled with canned food, pasta, beans, ramen noodles and water. O'Connor also puts in hygiene items like lip balm, soap and toothpaste.

Johnson said that's really needed. She listed toothpaste, toothbrushes and razors as being appreciated. "Things to make you feel halfway decent," she said.

O'Connor said she got permission from the church to put the Blessing Box on its property.

She also said it was vandalized earlier this week. But, her husband said the box was quickly refilled after that.

Kyle O'Connor said he started to get materials to make the repairs, and by the time he got back, there was a box of cereal and other food already put inside.

"And they hadn't had time to go shopping, but they ran back home and they pulled it all out of their cupboard so that it wouldn't be empty," he said.

The O'Connors say food and donations just show up in the box, and they don't know many of the donors. Kyle O'Connor said he calls them "anonymous angels."

At the park, Michael said it's not just the food - it's those donors who make the box a real blessing to the needy.

"Somebody is out there watching over them," he said.

"That's what makes my day," O'Connor said, hearing his comment.

She said some donors just drop off food, others can contact the church and make a tax-deductible donation, and those funds will be used to buy items.

O'Connor also said she's set up a GoFundMe account to take donations for Blessing Box items. She'll use money from that to buy food and the other things.

O'Connor said there are other groups in town that have heard about the box, and they are also donating things they can spare.

Her husband estimates the box can hold three or four grocery bags full of items, so it probably takes $25 to $30 a day to keep it stocked.

When it comes to those who are taking food from the box, O'Connor said there are some "regulars" who come by. And she stresses the food and other items are there for anyone.

"It's anybody in need," she said. "If they've lost their job, if they just need a little extra."

O'Connor hopes more Blessing Boxes will be set up in Bakersfield. "I'd like to see one out in the Southwest, Northwest, everywhere," she said. "Wouldn't that be wonderful."

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