By Graig Knowlton
What is Box of Hope?
"Box of Hope" consists of three different events or outreaches meant to reach needs specific to that time of year and in way that is important "because it addresses every single tier of Maslow's hierarchy of human needs. One of these tiers is essential needs, like food and water, which is always provided through the different outreaches of 'Box of Hope.' "
In September to assist families sending their children off to school, the organization provides school supplies. In December, it provides presents for parents to give their children on Christmas. In May, more food is given to the families to ensure their children are fed before finals. There is also an emergency program in place that provides families with immediate assistance throughout the times of the year boxes aren't available, or to provide larger needs such as clothes and furniture.
"It's not about getting or giving stuff, it's about the lasting relationships that can be built through personal connections as we help each other," Pastor John Paul McLaughlin said, the program meets Maslow's other needs by create lasting relationships between the people the organization helps and the people helping. The program also doesn't do all of the work for the families, but puts the power in their hands to allow them to move forward.
How it started
In 2015, pastors Chad Rieselman and McLaughlin, of Lumber City Church in North Tonawanda, partnered with The Buffalo Dream Center's "Boxes of Love" and were able to provide 93 families with groceries and presents for Christmas. Seeing the success of this program, the 2 pastors developed a dream, "A dream to see the people in our community come together and help one another, because we genuinely care about each other. A dream, to see a better future for our kids by showing them how we can serve each other together," Pastor John Paul said.
Rieselman and McLaughlin weren't the only one who developed this dream. They were soon approached by a handful of school counselors, psychologists and social workers from North Tonawanda Schools who had seen this success and wanted to recreate this success within the school.
The two pastors were invited to share their dream with the school's superintendent. Through this meeting, "Box of Hope" is now the main outreach students are directly involved with in their school. Partnerships were quickly formed with North Tonawanda High School and Middle School, Meadow Elementary, Drake Elementary, Ohio Elementary and Spruce Elementary. This gave them access to almost every family in North Tonawanda, and they were quickly able to identify the needs of these schools.
Partnerships with other churches in the community also formed. These churches, include Nash Road Free Methodist and Renewal Church, ignored the difference of denomination and identified the will of God and got on board with the mission of "Box of Hope" to further extend the reach and the manpower of this outreach.
This kind of cooperation between schools and churches of different denominations within the community is almost unheard of in today's society. However, differences were put aside for the importance of the children within these schools and providing the best future possible.
What impact has it had?
"Box of Hope" ran its first outreach the past September to give out "School Supply Boxes." These boxes included various school supplies, such as notebooks, pens and paper for the students, as well as groceries for the family. This outreach met the needs of 55 families for a total of 150 kids within the North Tonawanda School District.
The organization was also able to make a huge impact on a woman who needed help through "The Hope Box," or emergency box.
"One of the on-demand crisis boxes that we provided was to help a woman who had left an abusive relationship and found a new home. She had hardly any food or almost no furniture," Pastor John Paul said. "The schools informed us of the situation, and the churches were able to provide her with several pieces of furniture and more groceries than she knew what to do with. "
However, her story did not end there. John Paul explained, "We saw this same woman a few months later, and she came to us asking how she could help someone else. These are the kinds of stories that we are seeing because of 'Box of Hope.' "
Pastor John Paul speaking at the "State Level" NYSAP Convention on Nov. 11.
What is next for 'Box of Hope'?
Currently, registration is open for the "Holiday Box" outreach that will take place in December. The organization is looking to quadruple its fall numbers and provide gifts and groceries to between 150 and 200 families. The schools will be taking a bigger role in this outreach, providing all of the food for these boxes. The churches will provide the presents.
"The future of 'Box of Hope' is exciting and full of opportunities. As the partnership between schools and churches is strengthened, we are looking to share this dream with more and more people. We hope that this movement can be reproduced all over our state and even our country," Pastor John Paul said.
"Box of Hope" will soon be presented at other churches with the hopes that they will be part of this movement and help to expand the reach of "Box of Hope" across Western New York.
How can you get help - or help out?
If you need help or know someone who does, especially this holiday season, you can register to receive "The Holiday Box" until Dec. 8. Also on the site is the application to receive emergency assistance.
If you want to help the cause, you can go now toOpenABoxOfHope.org to sign up to be a volunteer and help give a "Box of Hope" to someone who needs it.
" 'Box of Hope' sets a precedent for how the people in a given community can help each other," said Drew Raufi, one of the key communicators at Lumber City Church, and a "Box of Hope" volunteer. "If every community did this, poverty and need would be greatly lessened."