Melanie Carver Inabinet’s dream of putting up Blessing Boxes in the Aiken area became a reality Tuesday.

By mid-afternoon, a team of volunteers had installed three of the micro pantries in three different locations– Osbon Park, Perry Memorial Park and Library Park.

The Blessing Boxes are filled with nonperishable food items and toiletries that are available for free to anyone in need.

“This means a lot,” said Inabinet before the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Blessing Box at Library Park. “It’s making me emotional.”

Inabinet learned about Blessing Boxes through social media websites and talked to Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon about the concept. She also joined forces with a well-known community activist, Jane Page Thompson, who had been exploring the issue of homelessness.

Inabinet and Thompson both are Realtors, and they decided to try to drum up interest in the Blessing Box concept locally by spreading the word on Facebook.

Their posts appeared on the Aiken Real Estate News page and also on their personal pages.

Chad Coleman, owner of Full Circle Fence, made a long-term commitment for his company to provide assistance, and Charles Gantt, an online content creator, offered to help construct the Blessing Boxes.

In addition, Aiken County Habitat for Humanity’s executive director, Yolanda Archuletta, decided to make her agency a nonprofit partner in the effort.

“I’m friends with both Melanie and Jane Page,” Archuletta said. “I knew that if they were heading it up, it would be worth doing. It’s also a great fit with our mission.”

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Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon, left, Melanie Carver Inabinet, Ary Martinez and Jane Page Thompson pose for a photo Tuesday with the new Blessing Box at Library Park in Aiken before a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Habitat for Humanity is contributing some of the construction materials for the boxes and also is helping to collect and process donations.

“We are making the Christmas spirit last all year long,” Thompson said. “The power of Facebook is amazing. It’s also amazing what people in the community can do when they come together.”

Osbon attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Blessing Box at Library Park, and he praised Inabinet and Thompson for their leadership in the grassroots charitable venture.

“There are people in our community who don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” Osbon said. “This is a great opportunity where we, as good neighbors, can help those individuals out. I want to commend Melanie and Jane Page for taking this project on. It really shows the character of the citizens of Aiken and what makes Aiken special.”

Mario Williams learned about the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Facebook and brought his children – Develle, 9; Shantele, 8; Omari, 7, and Amanda, 6 – to the event. They donated toilet paper, a bottle of dishwashing liquid and boxes of macaroni and cheese.

“We wanted to come out and show our support,” Mario said. “I try to teach my children to give back.”

Eventually, Inabinet and Thompson would like to have more than 20 Blessing Boxes in various locations in Aiken County.

“In addition to the immediate Aiken area, we want them to be in the rural parts of Aiken County in places like Ridge Spring, Windsor, Jackson and Beech Island,” Inabinet said.

For more information, call Inabinet at 803-617-9405 or visit the Blessing Boxes Aiken page on Facebook.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.