Blessing Box May Be Among First To Benefit From CARES Act Funds

Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Since 2016, The Blessing Box at Heritage Park in Doniphan provides free food and personal hygiene items to those in need. It is overseen by the Women’s Civic Club with assistance from other community organizations.
Ron Smith

A representative of DREAM, Inc. and another from the Doniphan Women’s Civic Club met with the Ripley County Commissioners on Wednesday, May 20.

The pair inquired about the application process for the federal CARES Act funds that have been made available to the county due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Becky Hill, a co-founder of DREAM (Doniphan Residents Engaged to Accomplish More) shared that the organization has focused on aiding the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic through The Blessing Box, a project of the Women’s Civic Club.

Beverly Weathers was on hand to provide the club’s insight on the impact of the box located at Heritage Park in downtown Doniphan.

Hill said that the homeless in the area, and there are children among them, prefer the grab-n-go supplies. DREAM, Inc. has been working to keep the box filled to ease the problem of hunger among them.

As a shopper for the organization, she said, “I look for bargains and shop locally.”

Weathers commented that other local clubs and individuals also supply the box with non-perishables. “More are helping and more are using it for the way it’s intended,” said Weathers.

The WCC received approval from the Doniphan City Council to place the box at Heritage Park a few years ago.

The first few months it was abused by some clearing it out almost as quickly as it was filled, but that has subsided, Weathers said.

“Most of the people I see are older,” she said. “There are some families with young children.”

Hill inquired if DREAM, Inc. qualified for CARES funds to supplement its food budget.

“I’m sure there will be some funding for you,” said presiding commissioner Jesse Roy, “Expenses for the homeless population provided to mitigate COVID-19 expenses are allowable - food and toiletries - but not in specifics.”

At the recommendation of Crystal Jones, director of Ozark Foothills Regional Planning Commission, Hill will apply for reimbursement funding. OFRPC has been hired by the county to administer the CARES Act funds.

Hill’s receipts will make it obvious how expenditures were used. OFRPC will work to ensure that all applications meet federal criteria before distributing funds. Jones said, however, that DREAM, Inc. would have to sign a call-back form to warrant return of funds if deemed unqualified later.

She also cautioned Hill not to increase expenditures on the assumption that reimbursement would happen. Hill said she understood, commenting, “Don’t ask for more than we could pay back.”

DREAM, Inc. could apply multiple times for expenditures from March 1 through Dec. 30, 2020. DREAM, Inc. was created in 2011 by Becky and Dan Hill and a third individual to initiate and sustain programs that provide resources and assistance for children, education and community, though not limited by those parameters. It has been active since 2014.

The Blessing Box was built by WCC members from plans provided by the builder of the one used in Mammoth Spring, Ark.

Weathers said, “Sharon Pigg built it. Rose Neels lettered the Plexiglas that her husband provided. It was installed by Malinda Roark’s husband and has been in use since February 2016.”