MANSFIELD — Those driving by the Butterfly House might have noticed a new fixture in front of the building.

Jess Allred, a retired newspaper publisher, was watching the news when a 10-second clip caught his attention and inspired him to build a blessing box, which was placed outside the Butterfly House at Mind Body Align (20 N. Mulberry St.) earlier this week. 

The purpose of a blessing box is to provide food and other items for those in need. People who have enough are encouraged to stock the box with nonperishable food items and other household products. In turn, those who need those items are welcome to take freely.

“Take what you need. Bring what you can. Above all… be blessed,” reads the sign above the box.

Allred turned to his Facebook friends in February, asking for their opinions about placing a blessing box in Mansfield.

“I just saw a television news segment that tweaked my interest. It’s about the creation and placement of ‘Blessing Boxes’ throughout a community,” Allred posted on Facebook. “I don’t know what city hoops we may need to jump through to make this happen, but I think it’s worth exploring.”

Annamarie Fernyak from the Butterfly House was quick to express interest in the idea and volunteered her location as a destination.

“For quite a while, I was collecting box ideas on Pinterest – blessing boxes, library (book) boxes – thinking eventually I’ll do something,” Fernyak said.

If Allred could build it, she was interested in buying the box. But Allred insisted on donating it.

Allred set to work by calling the Mansfield Codes and Permits office. That staff was helpful and he soon discovered no permits were necessary if the box was placed on private property and located a certain distance from the road.

“Here’s the deal,” he updated Fernyak via Facebook. “I’ll build the box for the Butterfly House if you’ll get your maintenance guy to put a post in the ground (on your private property) for the box to be attached. And, I’ll stock it the first time.”

He considered the possibilities of a wooden box, but when he reached out to Allen Cabinetry and Countertop Shop, 132 Distl Ave., a staff member found a better option, an aluminum reinforced Corian cabinet. Corian is a material often used for countertops and should be able to withstand the weather.

Allred offered to pay, but Allen Cabinetry and Countertop Shop liked the cause too and donated it. Coincidentally, this shop had built all the cabinetry in the Butterfly House.

Allred completed the box with a hand-lettered wooden sign and three metal butterfly decorations from Hobby Lobby. He was about to give up, when he found the perfect ones.

“I was walking down the aisle kind of disappointed when I looked up and three metal butterflies were looking right back at me,” he said.

The box was fully stocked, courtesy of Allred, and others have already dropped off nonperishable items at the Butterfly House. Fernyak said small donations are welcome, but says she has limited space to store items.

Allred now challenges others to further this idea.

“Who will be next to create their special rendition of a ‘Blessing Box’ to help those less fortunate?” he posted via Facebook on Sunday, April 30 after the box was placed outside the Butterfly House.

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