Brad Mays of Hayward watched as a young mother with a child was unable to find $1.20 in her purse to pay for groceries in the checkout line. This inspired Mays to do something concrete to address hunger.
“I asked myself, ‘What can I do about this problem?’” he said.
Mays came up with a concept similar to the little free libraries — small boxes on a pole filled with books that people are free to take and replace with other books. But instead of filling his box with free books, Mays stocks it with free food and calls it a Blessings Box.
Mays placed his Blessings Box in front of his home at 15986W Fourth Street three weeks ago and already he’s restocked the box several times as people have stopped by, mostly early mornings and evenings, and helped themselves to cans of vegetables, soups and packaged goods such as Hamburger Helper.
“It’s been a very good response,” he said. “People love the idea, and I’ve already been asked to build two more boxes.”
For anyone requesting, Mays said he is willing to build a Blessings Box for free. A box costs him roughly $22 in materials, and he plans to assist with each new installation.
A neighbor who lives across the street from Mays said he wanted to put up a Blessings Box in front of his house on Vermont Avenue.
Not only are people taking the free food, but Mays also has received numerous donations at his doorstep.
“I’ve been getting a lot of donations and that’s nice,” he said.
He welcomes canned and packaged food but will not take cash donations. He encourages anyone wanting to give cash to donate it to the Hayward Community Food Shelf.
Mays built the box to be waterproof by applying silicone to the inside edges, and the box remained dry after the recent weekend rains.
“I know there are many people who are dealing with hunger and I hope this can help a few,” he said.
If Mays’ ideas catches on, this retiree and part-time handyman might find himself busy building more and more of the boxes and telling others of his vision for addressing hunger one Blessings Box at a time.
Anyone interested in making a food donation to Mays’ Blessings Box can email him at Maysbradley@gmail.com.
A similar food pantry box has been located in front of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College for over a year. It is believed to be part of a project by human services students at the college.
The college did not respond to a request for comment.