Jane Scheilder and Jerry Chavers pose outside the Bertram Blessing Box while making a routine stop to check on the mini-pantry. Staff photo by Brigid Cooley
A small wooden cabinet erected just outside of First United Methodist Church in Bertram is seen by locals as a blessing to the community, which is why they call it a blessing box.
The Bertram Blessing Box, at 115 North St., provides food around the clock as the Bertram Food Pantry is only open from 1-3 p.m. and 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursdays. The food pantry is located at 520 Texas 29 East.
Sometimes called little free pantries, blessing boxes are usually stocked with non-perishable food and personal hygiene products. Locals are encouraged to “pay it forward” by donating when they can and, in turn, are welcome to take what they need.
“Everyone is aware of it, and that’s really wonderful,” Scheilder said.
Information about the food pantry is posted inside the box to point users to more resources.
Since the box is located right by the elementary school, kids are frequent customers, Scheilder said. Volunteers such as Jerry Chavers try to keep the box stocked with grab-and-go snacks for kids to pick up on their way home.
“The Holy Spirit put it on my heart to help,” Chavers said. “Thinking of hungry kids, well, I don’t like that.”
In addition to donating, Chavers helps maintain the box, assisting with necessary repairs. He believes people who would otherwise be embarrassed to seek help from the food pantry or other outreach resources appreciate the anonymity the box offers.
Scheidler said volunteers are always considering how to address community needs and hope to expand outreach. Plans for another box and even a community refrigerator, which will allow for more diverse food donations and safe storage during hot summer months, are being discussed.
Bertram isn’t the only city in the Highland Lakes to adopt this type of community service. Elder Chairperson Ron Petrick at First Christian Church, 204 E. Graves in Burnet, spearheaded the installation of a blessing box at the parish after reading an article about a Petite Blessing Pantry program in Austin.
“It’s one of our ministries, to feed the hungry,” Petrick said.
Ross’ Blessing Pantry was installed in the church parking lot in 2019 and has been frequented by residents ever since. The pantry is named after Mary Alice and Auda Ross, both faithful members of the congregation who prioritized donating food to church outreach programs.
To donate, drop off easy-to-open and ready-to-eat food items as well as personal hygiene products at either box. Volunteers come by regularly to arrange and refill.