Local businesses and organizations have partnered to install a pair of blessing boxes outside area fire stations to provide free, non-perishable food for Orangeburg’s homeless people.

The boxes will contain food items that don’t require any cooking, Tiffany Grant Foundation Director Latisha Walker said at a press conference announcing the project on Tuesday. Walker is an Orangeburg County Council member.

The food items will be readily available to individuals who don’t have access to cooked meals.

“Those are items that an individual can crack open and eat right away,” Walker said. “They don’t have to prepare it, they don’t have to cook it, they can just go ahead and eat it.”

One of the boxes will be located outside of the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety’s Middleton Street headquarters and the other will be located at the fire station on Chestnut Street.

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Firefighters will staff the boxes between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to distribute the food, Walker said. Firefighters will also monitor when the boxes need to be restocked, she said.

Anyone attempting to get food from the boxes outside of those hours can use a button to call a public safety officer meet them there.

Aside from public donations, the nonperishable goods for the boxes will also be supplied by quarterly donations from local grocery stores Piggly Wiggly and Food Lion, she said. There are also numerous community members and businesses who have placed donation boxes at their businesses to collect donations.

The boxes were built by students at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College out of unused Times and Democrat newsstands, she said. The students were present at the press conference announcing the boxes on Tuesday.

The boxes are insulated to protect the food from temperature changes and the items inside will be rotated out as they approach their expiration dates, she said.

The boxes are designed to provide food for individuals who are unhoused but who do not want to stay in a shelter, where they would have access to prepared meals, Walker said.

“They don’t want to live necessarily in a shelter,” she said. “They feel more comfortable on the street, and we want to make sure that they have these items that they can eat.”

Unsheltered people can also get cooked meals at the Samaritan House without staying at the shelter, she said.

The project is a partnership between several local businesses and groups, including The Tiffany Grant Foundation, Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, the Rotary Club, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, NAACP, MUSC Foundation, Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce, Kim’s Professional Painting, W&B Enterprises, Garden View Estates, Crescent Hospice, The Oaks Pace Program, Gallman Personnel Services and the Rev. Minnie Anderson, Walker said.

The conversations about the blessing boxes started at the beginning of this year, she said.

“We are very blessed that they came forward and wanted to help,” she said. “We spend a lot of money (at these local businesses), but this shows how they’re not only reaping the benefits – they’re willing to help the community and to also give back. So that’s very instrumental in how a community should work anyway.”

Walker and The Tiffany Gant Foundation have previously partnered with ODPS for Project Warm Streets in 2021, providing blankets and toiletries for Orangeburg’s unsheltered population. The service will serve as a companion to the blessing boxes, Walker said.

The boxes were installed Friday, City of Orangeburg spokesperson Jennifer Van Cleave said. More boxes may be added in the future, Walker said.

Community members can donate to the blessing boxes by contacting Walker by phone at 803-347-5565, by email at info@tiffanygrantfoundation.org or on social media platforms.

Contact the writer: cbozard@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5553. Follow on Twitter: @bozardcaleb.

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