BLESSINGS FOR THOSE IN NEED – Team volunteer Rebecca Larsen and project organizer Brenda Williams take a look at donations placed in the Swinomish Blessing Box on Swinomish Avenue and First Street. – Photo by Robin Careen-Edwards
Hunger often goes unnoticed. Some ration their food to make it last. For others, it could just be another day without eating. People in this predicament benefit from donated groceries and other household items. Brenda Williams is a Swinomish tribal member who knows that more food will benefit her community. She has developed a long-term project that will help provide a solution to hunger on her Reservation. Following in her mother’s, and community leader, Susan Wilbur’s footsteps, Williams organized a team of volunteers to help her establish and build a “Swinomish Blessing Box”. Steve Edwards, a Swinomish Tribal member, was recruited. He found a physical location for the “Box” on the corner of Swinomish Avenue and First Street, on the Reservation. Another volunteer is Quinault Tribal member Rebecca Larsen, who lives and works on the Swinomish Reservation. Within the Swinomish tribe, Williams recruited Tracy James and the Swinomish Youth Council. The Council funded building supplies for the “Box”. Larsen asked local cabinetmaker Sina Fillahi to help design and construct the “Box.” Fillahi is not a tribal member, but he is a longtime friend of the community. He well knows the hardships many face on a day-to-day basis. He willingly donated his time and skills. Fillahi built a small, wooden, free standing food pantry “Box” and put it on posts; with a roof and inside shelves to house non-perishable food items. Glass doors keep the food safe from the elements. As a symbolic touch, he attached special panels carved by Swinomish carver Kevin Paul. These panels have carved ravens “flying up” them. He feels they are representative of the “blessings” and of the “giving spirit” of Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and what the intentions of the “Box” is for. More compartments will be added onto the “Box,” so other seasonal foods and items, like diapers & school supplies, can be collected. Before the “Box” was advertised for SITC to start using it, Aurelia Bailey and the Swinomish Canoe family singers and drummers made a traditional blessing of the “Box.” This vision of Williams’ project came together through a combined team effort – including volunteers who helped install the “Box.” This team is now solidly in place. Anyone in need can now take non-perishable food items to feed themselves, their family members or friends. Anyone can leave non-perishable food and other useable items inside the box. Even though Williams’ mother is gone now, her compassion and desire to help others lives on in her daughter. She wanted to find ways to carry on her mother’s work. This first service project serves as a shining example of future service and community projects to come.