"I found it amazing that one minute he is digging through the trash and the next he is thinking of others. He told me how appreciative he was for all the people who put things in the box. This is how he survives. He gave me a hug and said “you folks are angels”.
Villagers...this is why we do it!!!
I wish I had a way to find him and give him more!!!!"
The Village has 5 open access free food boxes (and three more coming this year!) along the Rt.30 corridor in Chester County. The community is welcome to stock them with extra food anytime, just as wonderful souls like this man are welcome to take from them at anytime. Visit our website for more info and locations, link in comments. And big thanks to @Helen Swick McGough for her time and testimony today! <3
Through the generous donations of our faithful members, we've been blessed with this fancy-schmancy new and efficient website! This is a ONE STOP SHOP and joins all of the other tools we've used to grow this past year. No more go-fund-me, sign-up genius, conflicting information and mountains of manual paperwork for our administrative volunteers. Automatic tax deductible receipts sent with every donation and....MEMBERSHIP OPTIONS!!!
Phew! We're just over the moon on this shiny and affordable software tool customized for brand new charities like ours. This fabulous new interface frees up our all-volunteer Village Admin Team to make the most of their time and to keep bringing positive projects into our community.
So explore! Sign-up to Volunteer! Give us your feedback! We're so excited and we hope you are too!!
Thanks for visiting!
Judgement. Guilt. Anger. Feeling unappreciated. All pretty terrible feels right? I remember feeling all of those right before I started this group, somewhat accidentally. I was trying to focus on the positive that connects us all, and remember the person I want to be, at my core. A kind, empathtic human being who tries to care about the love and light in EVERY other human, equally.
Now let’s be real…I said ‘tries’ in that sentence above because no one is perfect. Human beings are inherently flawed, myself included, and doing better is a constant uphill climb and learning curve for all of us. I strive daily to send the same amount of love, support and empathy to every human I meet – even the real a-holes. It’s not easy.
Where am I going with all of this? Judgement, guilt and anger are cropping up again, right here in this group. In our haven of positivity, in our sanctuary of support. When we see someone take more than we would personally take from a food box, we’re angry or confused. When we spend hard earned money to give a few canned goods to a box and the donations don’t last the night, we’re disappointed and concerned. Our reactions vary from mild to severe, and we waffle between trusting our fellow man, and worrying about dishonesty and greed.
“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” ―Wayne Dyer
Look folks, I get it, and I think it’s all a very normal reaction to something we’re all so emotional invested in. It’s extremely hard to give without expectation and to offer support without judgement. When I did my own soul-searching I realized how many assumptions I was making… about who should be taking from a box, and how much they should take. Assumptions based on nothing – which is how much I know about anyone using our boxes.
I know nothing about these people because they are anonymous by design. I don’t know their suffering, their situation, their circumstances. Yet, because I know nothing, it makes it ten times easier to assume the worst.
We’re all missing the opportunity to connect and better understand those we’re trying to serve. While some of us have had the privledge of meeting appreciative and kind souls face to face while we stocked a box in order to know our donations made a difference, many others have not.
Over the holidays we conducted an experiment where we left small wrapped gift boxes of candy, meats, cheeses* and $50 cash in the Food Boxes. We made 10 of them, a volunteer dropped them off in random boxes one at a time on Christmas Eve, and morning and evening on Christmas Day.
With each box was a letter and survey from the Village that if returned anonymously, would allow them to donate another $50 in their name, to the cause of their choice to ‘pay it forward’.
I’ll be honest, this is where I fell into judgement, anger and self-serving sadness when I checked our post office box for weeks and found nothing. NOTHING. At that point I did some serious soul searching – even considered quitting the Village and this project for a hot second (look folks, I’m emotionally invested so I play hard, and fall hard too, don’t judge LOL).
But anyway, I resigned myself to the fact that we may not see any letters in return – and that had to be OK. Giving in its purest form is doing so without expecting anything in return – either for yourself or in this case, others.
“Help others without any reason and give without the expectation of receiving anything in return.” ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
This is extremely hard to do sometimes. Giving without getting anything physical in return is something most of us do…but it doesn’t stop there. Expecting nothing in return means NOTHING in return. Giving without expectation of a thank you, of a smile, of any promise that your gift changes their life or day. That is the ultimate gift.
Our boxes are the epitome of this difficult virtue. When you give to a box, you don’t know who takes it, how much they take and for what for. Therein lies the opportunity for our personal growth, to truly learn to give without expectation. You do this for you, for your community, and to spread positivity. Nothing else.
Yet, after I finally agreed to let go, and champion giving without judgement and expectation, I found a letter returned. Carefully written in Spanish…
How did this cash gift change your holiday?
Well I did not expect this and I used it for Christmas but I’m filled with happiness! May God bless you!
What is your biggest fear or challenge in your daily life?
Ser mejor mama (be a better mom)
What more could our Village do for you?
Nothing, thank you very much. I am grateful for this help.
Cue the tears, LOTS of them. It was so nice to connect with a user of our boxes after all the hard work we’ve put into them this past year. But…”Be a better mom”…that just hit me right in the gut. I feel the same way. That’s what most mothers strive for every day, right?
Then last week, before I could publish this post, another letter arrived in the mail with a personal note attached to the survey…
To: The dearest Village,
I’m sorry this is so late. I received one of your boxes the day before Christmas…and used it to grab a few things for my two sons. I am a 38 year old single parent. I have been out on the streets (homeless) for almost a year and just moved into my house. I have no help from family or friends. I struggle a lot. I get depressed because I feel like I’m going to lose my ability to pay my bills. Please keep helping people…it helps! Thank you again & God Bless!
I struggle. I want to be a better mom/dad/parent. It’s those sentiments that unite us. No matter your circumstances – if you’re giving to a box, or taking from a box – we want to do better for ourselves, and for our children.
So for those of you struggling with giving to the boxes without judgement and expectation, let these letters be your inspiration, as they were mine. What we’re doing here matters. It helps these women be ‘better mothers’, and helps ALL of us be a better Village. Please don’t give up on them.
With love and appreciation for all of you journeying with me in this beautiful experiment, thank you for ‘Being the Village’!
If you’ve wanted to get to our Food Boxes but haven’t had the time or just don’t drive by those areas enough, participate in our Box Buddy Program!! You can donate any amount and add the tag line ‘for Food Boxes’ and a gracious volunteer will use 100% of your donation to purchase food to stock a box! We’ll even send you a photo to show you what your donation purchased! It’s super easy and all donations through this program are 501c3 tax deductible!
**ACTIVITY CLOSED. POSTED HERE AS ARCHIVE**
Alrighty lovely generous folks…our Village Adopt-a-Family program is here and we have just 13 days to make a difference in the lives of SEVEN families this holiday season! These Kennett Area parents are all raising families where at least one child has a severe behavioral health issue (autism spectrum disorders) and are barely scraping by. When we first asked these kids what they want for christmas we got responses like underwear, socks and a hairbrush.
It’s time for our SEPTEMBER SPONSORSHIP!!!! And that’s right, it’s US!!!! This village, you, and the women and children of chester county that we’ve helped this past year. Do you realize what we’ve done in just 7 short months (with two of those on break)?
We couldn’t believe it when we put it all together, so here you are…
So folks, we want to be clear – WE – did it. Without the support from every one of you, no matter how small or how often, every little like, every add, every share, every dollar donated, every conversational mention, every minute volunteered…we’re moving some big old grassroots mountains because of you. And we want to keep doing it.
So, if you’ve had fun, if you’re still inspired by what we do and want to help us continue this experiment in grassroots giving, we’d love your support this month. We promise we’ll only ask this of you once a year – because, ya know, we’re also still committed to not being annoying.
*This post was updated 8/29 1:11 with additional links from downingtown ex-pat and villager E.H. who is now living in Houston and gave a few additional grassroots links.*
It Takes a Village is dedicated to bringing our community ways to give back and to truly ‘Be the Village’ to those in need. Right now Texas needs our help. The devastation from Hurricane Harvey is still ongoing as the storm dumps over 50+ inches of rain on the area. It can be very hard to know how to help in times like these…it’s far away, you’re not sure who to trust, you’re not sure what they need…we get it. So we here at the Village have curated a list of ‘grassroots giving’ options to make it easier for you to work your magic and give of whatever resources you have to assist our fellow neighbors in Texas.