LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Shopping for food items for blessing boxes is retail therapy for Maria Bell’s heart.
“I usually just fill up my arms and keep going,” said Bell.
Bell moved to Radcliff from Greece 25 years ago with her husband, who served in the Air Force.
She ran a Greek restaurant here for 22 years, but nowadays, she dedicates her time to keeping emergency food pantries stocked with nonperishable foods.
She makes grocery store runs up to three times a day and whenever someone is in need.
“They text you at like 9:00 at night that there is a family of four kids and they need food. You cannot tell them I’ll be there tomorrow,” said Bell.
Her vision and nonprofit, Be the Change Food Bank, started when she took over an annual Christmas dinner when its organizer suddenly passed away.
“I felt that moment that this is what needs to be done for many, many reasons, to feed the people, to feed the hungry, and to honor her,” said Bell. “I didn’t want it somehow to stop.”
There were 40 meals left over from the Christmas dinner.
The next day, Bell went door to door looking for people who needed something to eat.
She cooked and prepared meals every Saturday following that.
“I thought, man, what do they eat next, so they got a meal, two meals, three meals Saturday, and then what?” said Bell.
Since then, Bell has had 13 blessing boxes built in the Radcliff to store food around the clock for those in need.
She hopes to raise enough money to build 100.
Stories from people who visit the box are all the proof she needs to know that the pantries are making a difference.
“One guy, he said, ‘I want to apologize that I come so often there. You can probably see me. The reason I am coming so often is because I substitute my rent with the grocery money so I won’t get evicted, so I literally live off of the blessing box, Maria,’” said Bell. “I felt, yes, these little babies do a lot in this community.”
Bell prays for a day when blessing boxes won’t be needed.
Bell and volunteers are preparing 1,000 meals for this year’s Christmas dinner.
They will serve dinner from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Colvin Community Center in Radcliff.
All are welcome to attend.