New Milford Boy Scout builds ‘blessing boxes’ to help those with food insecurity in the community

NEW MILFORD – Since the start of the pandemic, 17-year-old Boy Scout Alex Rigdon and his family have volunteered at Camilla’s Cupboard – a local food pantry, on several occasions.

For Alex’s Project Eagle, he will now help those who are hungry in another way: he is creating four community “blessing boxes,” which are self-contained micro-food pantries.

The shiny purple 4ft by 8ft weatherproof boxes, which will be mounted in the ground on poles, will be filled with non-perishable food items.

In May, they will be installed in various places in the city and can be consulted anonymously, at any time.

“Blessing boxes can benefit those who are not eligible (for food discounts) through social services or cannot get help anywhere else,” said Angela Chastain, founder of Camilla’s Cupboard, an organization New York-based nonprofit. The Milford Public School Central Office Building at 50 Main Street, and distributes free food bags to children weekly.

Each box, which is based on the nonprofit group Small free pantry, can contain at least 50 items. They will have plexiglass doors and will be able to withstand all kinds of weather conditions.

“I use like pressure-treated plywood that can protect against the elements,” said Alex, a junior from New Milford High School who has been a scout in the city’s troop 58 since he was 11 years old. An Eagle Scout is the highest rank. achievable in the Boy Scouts.

To carry out the project, he receives help from his father Chris Rigdon, his grandfather Bruce Rigdon and other scouts.

“A big concern when creating the boxes was the pressure treated wood. It was wet when we bought it with the chemicals so we had to dry it out. To dry it, we left it in my basement with a dehumidifier running. It worked really well, but the only problem was that as the wood dried out, it started to warp,” Alex said. “So the next time we went to install the boxes, some parts were warped. We had to use a lot of clamps to straighten the wood again and insert the screws.

From working on the project, Alex says he learned the importance of planning.

“You have to plan for everything to go wrong, because most things you plan for go wrong,” he said. “There is not always a simple solution. You need a back-up plan and the ability to improvise.

Maintain the boxes

Alex will initially store the boxes with the money he raised to recycle the cans.

“I recycled over 4,600 bottles to raise over two years,” he said. “All of this will be donated to Camella once I complete the project.”

As the food runs out, the boxes will then be replenished by Camella’s Cupboard.

“We have random cans given to us that we usually send to social services, but some of the ones we might keep so we have a bit of a spare if the donations run out in the boxes,” Chastain said.

Chastain said she also hopes community members will also help restock the boxes.

As well as making sure the boxes are filled, Chastain said volunteers will frequently visit the boxes to make sure they are maintained and there is no litter around them.

By being accessible 24/7, blessing boxes provide great convenience.

“Sometimes people can’t reach us or can’t access social services because they’re working,” Chastain said. “So it gives people an after-hours opportunity to get things.”

Four boxes will be installed in honor of Camilla Cupboard’s fourth anniversary. The exact location of the blessing boxes, which resemble the style of small free libraries, has yet to be finalized. Once they are, they will be posted on Camella’s Cupboard website, camellascupboard.com.

Alex said he hopes the blessing boxes will last a lifetime.

“When I was initially looking for a project, I wanted something that I could potentially show my kids in the future while driving across town,” Alex said. “I remember all the time I spent there and all the memories that came with it.”

Once Alex becomes an Eagle Scout, while technically he won’t need to be directly involved with his troop anymore, he still plans to incorporate it into his life.

“It’s kind of a family to me,” he said. “I feel like it helped me become who I am today. I’ve been on a lot of trips and also made a ton of friends throughout my scouting career.

There was a huge increase in people using Camella’s Cupboard during the height of the pandemic,” Chastain said.

“Then we kind of went down, but it’s going up again,” she said. “Last week, nearly 200 families came.

Alex said he was proud to create the blessing boxes.

“As my dad says, no one should be embarrassed to eat,” he said.

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