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Maggie Ballard (Used With Permission)

Inside Wichita's 'Blessing Box,' a Micro Food Pantry

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Maggie Ballard (Used With Permission)

In Wichita, Kansas, Maggie Ballard and her son Paxton have opened a tiny food pantry in their front yard. Modeled after the little free library concept, Maggie and Paxton call their little free pantry a "blessing box." It's a red wooden box with a glass door. They keep it stocked with food and sanitary supplies, and a sign encourages visitors to take whatever they need and contribute what they can. All transactions are anonymous.

Here's a short video tour of the box:

And here's Paxton with the box:

Maggie told NPR, "My son is 6 years old, so it gives him a little chore to kind of watch it and see what comes and goes and who comes and goes, and maybe learn a little lesson from it."

Maggie told mental_floss this week that community members have left cards, donations of supplies, and even cash (including a $20 bill between two cans) in response to the project. Here are some photos of the box and early donations:

And here's a sampling of the cards:

Maggie and Paxton's project is an extension of a small movement going on nationwide. From NPR's report earlier this week:

Similar "yard-based" food pantries have gone up across the country, in states like Oklahoma, Indiana, Kentucky, Florida and Minnesota. Much of it seems to trace back to Jessica McClard, who created what she calls the "little free pantry" in northwest Arkansas.

"The products that are stocked are put directly inside the pantry and turnover is in about 30 to 45 minutes," McClard says. "The frequency of the turnover and the fact that other sites in town are also turning over that frequently, it suggests to me that the need is tremendous."

McClard maintains a Little Free Pantry website with guidance on how to make your own blessing box.

Finally, here are Maggie and Paxton:

(All photos courtesy of Maggie Ballard, used with permission.)

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This Just In
7 Ways You Can Help Hurricane Irma Victims
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Want to assist Hurricane Irma victims? Instead of raiding your closets and pantries for clothing, food, and blankets, the Center for International Disaster Information recommends donating cash, rather than material goods, to carefully vetted relief organizations. Or, consider donating your time by either opening your home to evacuees or helping to rebuild ravaged towns and cities. Here are just a few ways you can lend a hand.

1. HELP PUERTO RICO REBUILD HOMES.

Hundreds of Puerto Rico residents lost their homes in the storm, and many have been stranded without power. Local nonprofit ConPRmetidos is raising money to rebuild houses and provide on-the-ground relief and aid to hurricane victims.

2. SUPPORT RELIEF EFFORTS IN BOTH THE CARIBBEAN AND THE U.S.

Convoy of Hope, a faith-based, nonprofit organization based in Springfield, Missouri, is sending food, water, and emergency supplies to Hurricane Irma survivors in both the U.S. and the Caribbean, and continues to support Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Donate $10 to their #HurricaneIrma response by texting "IRMA" to 50555.

3. LIST YOUR HOME ON AIRBNB.

Homeowners in the Florida Panhandle, northern Georgia, and northwest and southeast South Carolina can open their doors to Irma evacuees and relief workers for free by marking them available on Airbnb's Irma page until September 28, 2017.

4. VOLUNTEER WITH HABITAT FOR HUMANITY.

Good with a hammer, and want to help out for the long haul? Sign up on Habitat for Humanity’s Hurricane Recovery Volunteer Registry, or donate to help rebuild homes destroyed by Irma.

5. DONATE TO THE FLORIDA DISASTER FUND.

Irma weakened into a tropical storm as it tore through Florida, but cities are still flooded, and millions are now without power. The Florida Disaster Fund, which is the State of Florida’s official private disaster recovery fund, accepts donations for response and recovery efforts, and also has a list of resources (including open shelters) available online. 

6. HELP ANIMALS BY DONATING TO THE SOUTH FLORIDA WILDLIFE CENTER.

Support injured or orphaned animals by donating to the South Florida Wildlife Center in Fort Lauderdale, which is billed as the nation’s highest-volume wildlife hospital, trauma center, and rehabilitation facility.

7. GIVE TO THE UNITED WAY.

The United Way of Miami-Dade is requesting donations on behalf of the support organization's locations in all hurricane-ravaged areas. Relief funds can be directed to either Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Harvey.

JUST REMEMBER...

Donations often pour in right in the aftermath of a natural disaster, but charities are still going to need your long-term financial support as afflicted communities continue to recover from Irma. Consider giving money over the course of a few weeks or months, instead of just a one-time payment.

And before donating, vet the credentials of nonprofits on websites like Charity Navigator or GuideStar (although they may not list smaller, community-based organizations). In this case, the Federal Trade Commission has a list of tips for giving. They include never sending cash or wiring money, doing some background research on the organization, and even calling them if necessary.

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Lists
10 Ways You Can Help Hurricane Harvey Victims
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Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Want to lend a helping hand to Texans in need, but don't know where to start? Here are just a few ways you can make a difference in the aftermath of the destructive storm.

1. DONATE TO THE TEXAS DIAPER BANK.

The Texas Diaper Bank is requesting money and diaper donations to provide displaced families with emergency diaper kits. (Diapers often aren’t provided by disaster relief agencies.) Visit their donation page here.

2. LIST YOUR HOME ON AIRBNB.

Airbnb has waived service fees for evacuees who check in before September 1, 2017, and the site is also connecting people in need with volunteer hosts. Find a place to stay, or offer your space for free here.

3. LEND YOUR TIME, MONEY, AND EXTRA PET SUPPLIES TO RESCUE ANIMALS.

Austin Pets Alive—which has rescued hundreds of abandoned and shelter pets from flood-stricken areas—currently needs money, dog and cat fosters able to keep animals through adoption, and supplies like cat litter, large plastic or metal bins, and liquid laundry soap. For more information, click here.

Other animal groups in need include the SPCA of Texas, Dallas Animal Services, and the San Antonio Humane Society.

4. DONATE TO A LOCAL FOOD BANK.

The Galveston County Food Bank, the Houston Food Bank, and the Corpus Christi Food Bank all accept online donations.

5. GIVE BLOOD.

Hospitals in Texas are reportedly facing blood shortages. If you’re local, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center and Carter BloodCare are seeking blood donations.

6. DONATE TO THE SALVATION ARMY.

The Salvation Army will offer both immediate and long-term disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey victims. Make a single donation here, or arrange to make a recurring monthly donation.

7. BROWSE GOFUNDME FOR CREATIVE WAYS TO DONATE.

Help out families, charities, animals, relief organizations, and other small groups by visiting GoFundMe’s Hurricane Harvey Relief page and donating to a fundraising campaign.

8. HELP OUT DISASTER RESPONSE GROUP PORTLIGHT.

Disaster response organization Portlight provides medical equipment, shelter, and evacuation assistance to people with disabilities. Find out how you can help here.

9. BUY A COLORING BOOK.

Contribute to the Texas Library Association’s Disaster Relief Fund for libraries damaged by the storm. Donate here, or purchase a TLA coloring book instead. A set of two costs $10, and all proceeds benefit the relief fund.

10. GIVE MONEY TO THE RED CROSS.

Text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also visit redcross.org, or call 1- 800-RED CROSS.

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