By Chelsea Watkins
The Cass County Health Department (CCHD) in Virginia has a new way to help individuals in the community. A “blessings box,” built by the Virginia High School shop teacher, is now located at the Cass County Health Department and is open 24 hours a day for people to take what they need or to leave items for others. Items such as non-perishable food items, diapers, baby cereal, baby clothes, soap, care packages and hygiene items are all stored in a wooden box that anyone can access. The box opened up in June and is located right outside of the health department, which is one of the few federally qualified health centers in a 50 mile radius. This means they receive federal grants to help the uninsured and under insured. CCHD provides medical and behavioral services, has both Spanish and French interpreters on-site, and it serves patients from “newborn to 100 plus.” CCHD does not require patients to be residents of Cass County to receive services. Cass County Health Department has locations in both Virginia and Beardstown, but the Blessings Box is located at 331 S. Main St. at the Virginia location.
Delaney Sieving, a health educator at CCHD, says she had seen the idea for a blessings box in Beardstown (which has two) and wanted to bring that same spirit of giving to Virginia. She states that CCHD has always had a community resource closet full of toiletries, but that people may also be in need during times that the Cass County Health Department is not open. A blessings box is wonderful for those who may not want to discuss their needs, as well. With a nearly 14 percent poverty rate in Cass County and 15 percent in Morgan County, it is easy to understand why people may need a helping hand. Those who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women Infant Child (WIC) benefits cannot use them to purchase diapers, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, feminine hygiene items, tissues, toilet paper, shampoo, house cleaning supplies or other items that people need to use every day, so this is a great way to bridge that gap. When planning to place items in the blessings box, be mindful of weather extremes and of items that might melt or freeze.
Sieving has been reaching out to local businesses to help fill the box. So far, employees of Cass County Health Department and CASSCOMM have been filling the box, along with a few members of the community for whom CCHD is so grateful. CASSCOMM has been their first sponsor, but they are looking to others to partner up with, as well. Three ways to help are to donate items themselves, to send a check to Cass County Health Department or to partner up and take over maintaining the box for a week. So far, the blessings box has been a huge success and Sieving states that once filled, it is empty within 3-4 hours most of the time. She can be contacted at the Cass County Health Department at (217) 452-3057, ext. 1350.