- Associated Press - Friday, March 10, 2017

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Paxton Burns, 6, checks the big red box outside his house every morning before going to school. He checks it every night before bed, too.

If necessary, he fills it up with canned goods, dried noodles, soap, pancake mix and other foods and toiletries. It almost always needs filling.

“It’s just so much more than I ever expected it to be,” said Maggie Ballard, Paxton’s mother. “It’s just taken off.”

The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/2mXZenM ) reports that mother and son installed the Blessing Box, sometimes called a little free pantry, outside their home in October. In the months since then, they’ve only paid to refill the box once - even though they say items have been taken from it daily.

People have left donations on their front porch regularly or even mailed money to use to refill the box.

The sign on the box’s door says, “Take a blessing when you need one. Leave (a) blessing when you can.”

“I think it is a new trend that is starting, just from all the messages I’ve gotten on Facebook and from talking to other people,” Ballard said. “Maybe it’s planted a seed, a new thing that would be available for other people. Some people have reached out to me about possibly putting one on college campuses or around schools, especially during the summer time when kids aren’t in school.”

The wooden box, on 13th Street in front of the Ballards’ home in Riverside, is accessible any time of day.

There’s at least one other little pantry in Wichita, at Woodland United Methodist Church at 1100 W. 15th St. They also can be found elsewhere in the nation and the world.

Woodland United Methodist’s Free Little Food Pantry is located along the wall at the northwest edge of the parking lot and is open 24/7. Anyone can “take something if in need” or “leave something when blessed,” according to the church’s website.

Ballard said she has not had any problems since installing her box. Rather, the neighborhood has turned out in full support of it, she said.

“It’s been more than putting a box out there and seeing what happens,” she said. “It’s taught us so much.”

Paxton is also learning from the box, she said, encouraging his friends not to waste their food since someone else might be in need.

“You can tell he’s picking up on it,” Ballard said. “It’s just really heartwarming. There’s obviously a need for it for as much as it’s used daily.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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