Blessings come in all shapes and sizes, but one in Forsyth County takes the shape of a black wooden box.
Highlands Church, which is located off Canton Highway (Hwy. 20 west) in Cumming, recently became home to a “blessings box,” thanks to two members of its congregation.
The box serves as a food donation site, where those in need can take the non-perishables the box holds, and those with extra can give a canned good or two.
Roman Cibirka said he and his wife, Marisa Cibirka, decided to create the miniature pantry for county residents after he came across news articles about similar endeavors in other states.
“I saw it on the national news and it seemed to resonate with me,” he said. “The mission of the church is really dedicated to Forsyth County; part of the core value is community outreach and helping people. We thought that this aligned with what the national news said [that] one can of food can make a difference in a family’s life.”
In 2014, 6.8 percent of Forsyth County’s population was food insecure, according to data from Feeding America, a national nonprofit hunger relief organization.
While that ranked Forsyth as the lowest in the state for food insecurity, the Cibirkas said there are still plenty of people in the county who can be helped.
“It was pretty striking when we started doing some investigations into Forsyth County,” Roman Cibirka said. “You’ve got people living out of their cars, and it’s stunning when you think of the [county’s] growth.”
“You don’t want to have [the box] in a too-high visibility place, though,” Marisa Cibirka added, “because people are embarrassed to come out and take something. I feel sad that people aren’t taking what we want to give them.”
Though the Cibirkas only have one box built so far, members of their congregation have stepped up to help.
“We have a very giving church,” Marisa Cibirka said. “The members, when they come on Sundays, bring a can or something.”
Roman Cibirka said other members have offered to build more boxes to place throughout the county and that they expect to have three built by the end of April.
“We have a handful of businesses in the community that would be interested in round two,” he said. “We just have to decide how many we want to plant and have the owner sign off on having it on their property.
“We’re just trying to take it one box at a time and go from there.”
Hal Hardy, the church’s pastor, said he hopes the boxes will become a county initiative.
“Yes, we will stock it at first, but ultimately, the bigger vision would be that the community would say, ‘I don’t want my neighbor to go without a meal,’” he said. “We do things internationally, we do things nationally, but we can’t do all that and forget about our backyard.
“Ultimately, I would like to have these sprinkled all around the county and the community would say, ‘That’s not just a Highlands thing, that’s a godly motive.’”