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Aberdeen Police have ‘Blessing Box’ for people in need

From left, Aberdeen Police Cpl. Travis Hart, Ofc. Jeanette Giganti, Sgt. Rick Clark and Ofc. Corey Lightner pose with the department's new 'Blessing Box,' which is available in the police station lobby as of Thursday. People in need can take items out of the box such as food, drinks or toiletries, plus members of the community can donate items for the box.
From left, Aberdeen Police Cpl. Travis Hart, Ofc. Jeanette Giganti, Sgt. Rick Clark and Ofc. Corey Lightner pose with the department's new 'Blessing Box,' which is available in the police station lobby as of Thursday. People in need can take items out of the box such as food, drinks or toiletries, plus members of the community can donate items for the box. (Aberdeen Police Dept./Provided / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

People who need who need food or household supplies, or even children visiting the library or playing in the park who need a snack or drink, can drop by the Aberdeen Police Department station lobby and pick up the necessary items from the department’s new “Blessing Box."

The box, which made its debut Thursday, is available in the front lobby of the police station at Franklin and North Parke streets, across from the Aberdeen Library. The city’s Festival Park is across North Parke Street from the police department and City Hall.

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“If someone’s in need, in close proximity to those two places, they can pop in and grab a bite to eat or something” else that they need, police spokesperson Lt. Will Reiber said.

People can either drop off items for the box, such as food, drinks and toiletries, or they can visit anonymously and pick up some of the items, according to Reiber, who noted that “our doors are always open.”

Ofc. Corey Lightner, who has been with the Aberdeen Police Department about four years, came up with the idea for the Blessing Box, based on examples he saw on social media.

“I thought it would be a good idea to give back to the community, people that need not only food and beverages, but toiletries, soap and all that," Lightner said.

He pitched the idea to Sgt. Rick Clark, sergeant for his patrol shift, who approved. Officers on Lightner’s shift purchased building supplies and fabricated and painted the box.

The box was then unveiled during a monthly department staff meeting, with the slogan “Take What You Need, Leave What You Can."

“It brought us together, [using] teamwork to get it built and get it implemented,” Lightner said of the Blessing Box project.

Lightner and other officers on his shift often give back to the community, through initiatives such as purchasing gift cards or providing meals for people in need, according to Reiber, who praised them for their “innovative” community policing efforts.

A “pretty diverse” amount of supplies already was on hand to fill the Blessing Box, such as items collected during the department’s holiday food drive, as well as things donated by police officers for the box, Reiber said.

The lieutenant noted a man who came in, while he and Lightner were conducting a phone interview with The Aegis, and dropped off baby care supplies for the box. Reiber later highlighted a mother and daughter who also dropped off items Thursday afternoon.

“It just illustrates what kind of community we have in Aberdeen, where the local government and the citizens come together to help each other out,” Reiber said.

Lightner has encountered the need in the community for items available in the Blessing Box, such as people who are homeless, people who seek temporary shelter in the police department lobby when it is cold or hot outside, even children who could use a snack or a drink while visiting the library or the park.

“They can [now] at least open the box and get something,” he said.

The Blessing Box is the latest of many community service initiatives supported by the Aberdeen Police, who work with the city government, local organizations and citizens to assist people in need.

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“For us, it’s just another step in our evolution to make sure we’re doing everything we can to be part of our community,” Reiber said.

Local businesses can adopt the blessing box and collect supplies to fill it; contact Reiber at 410-272-2121 for more information.

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