By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
WAXAHACHIE — The unassuming box atop a pole across from the parish office at St. Joseph Catholic Church may seem simple at first. A longer look, though, reveals the greater impact it is having on the community surrounding the parish. The message stenciled across the top makes clear its purpose.
“Take what you need, give what you can.”
A seventh-grader at Bishop Dunne Catholic School, Ryder Smith constructed the blessing box as an Eagle Scout project with help from a few of his fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 232 and his father, Matt Smith.
“It’s to help people in the community who are struggling financially and struggle to put food on the table,” said Smith, 13, a third generation Eagle Scout, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. “People from around the community will donate food to the box for those in the community who are struggling. Those who need items are free to come get them.”
Smith, who lives in nearby Midlothian, is an alum of St. Joseph Catholic School and an altar server at the church where his family has been parishioners since 2014. In fact, inspiration for the project came from Dr. Aly McDowell, a faculty member at the school.
“I’d originally planned to do something else for the Rotary Club of Waxahachie, but with COVID-19, I had to alter my plans,” Smith said. “Dr. McDowell had posted on Facebook about the need for a blessing box at the parish, and I thought that would be a great idea.”
From concept to planning to construction, the project took about 12 weeks. Smith started the project in May and had it in place by early September.
Smith’s mother, Joy, said the response since has been heart-warming.
“Since my younger son, Rustin, goes to school here, I’ll drive past the box every day,” she said. “There will be times I’ll drive by it and it will be completely empty. Within hours or maybe a day, it will be completely full again. The give and take seems to be very good.”
Her husband agreed.
“In the first two or three days it was up and functioning, a lot of people were already asking about it,” he said. “Since then, we’ve seen tremendous response.”
Tara Bart, director of religious education for the parish, said the blessing box has been received with open arms by the community.
“It has definitely filled a need,” she said. “There are countless families not going to bed hungry because of Ryder’s project.”
Bart called Smith’s project a “terrific example” of how he lives his Catholic faith.
“St. Rose of Lima said, ‘When we serve the poor and the sick, we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our neighbors because in them we serve Jesus,’” Bart said. “In helping neighbors in need, Ryder is serving Jesus. His project allows other members of the community to donate items and serve those in need, therefore, his project is allowing others to serve Jesus.”
Ultimately, Smith said he hopes the blessing box project offers at least a little support to those in the community who are in need.
“I think with coronavirus there are a lot of people — especially in this area — who just need a little extra help,” he said. “I hope, with this blessing box, we’re able to provide it.”