By Jessica Brodie
WINNSBORO—The Blessing Boxes Ministry at First United Methodist Church has just celebrated its two-year mark, tripling its number of boxes while shining the light of Jesus throughout the community.
Jane Hinnant, a lay member of First, said God began to prod her to start the ministry a few years ago by opening her eyes to the severe poverty needs of Fairfield County, particularly the two square miles surrounding her church. Encouraged by her pastor, she gathered some friends to brainstorm, and in March 2017 they launched Blessing Boxes, a monthly distribution of basic non-food items to neighbors in need. Given on the first Thursday of every month, the boxes contain things not typically covered by food stamps, such as cleaning supplies, paper products, diapers and hygiene items.
First hosts the distribution with support from its members, as well as volunteers from several other groups in Winnsboro, including First Church of Nazarene, First Baptist, Salem Presbyterian, Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, Winnsboro Women’s Club and the Word, Spirit and Faith Church of Ridgeway.
The lay-led ministry gave out 23 boxes its first month, expanded to 51 six months later, and in February gave out 74 to new and returning clients.
Now, said First’s pastor the Rev. Meg Sweeney Cook, “We’ve increased to 80 to 100 boxes every month! This is making a big impact on our community.”
In addition to the regular boxes, they also give Bibles to all first-timers, as well as blankets during cold months and box fans during warm months. In December they gave out oranges, and they also have an “extras” box for people to choose a special item, like lotion or socks.
People often line up beginning at 5 a.m. outside the church. Box distribution begins at 8:30 a.m. and is first-come, first-served.
“It is just such a blessing,” Hinnant told the Advocate—both to those doing the serving and those being served.
Hinnant said they have given out roughly 1,300 boxes in two years, with an average of 12 new recipients each month.
Anyone who wishes to help the ministry can donate items to First UMC, 109 W. College St., Winnsboro, SC 29180. Monetary donations are also welcome; the check memo should read “Blessings.