Camas High senior helping others help others

‘Blessing Box’ at St. John’s Presbyterian Church is student’s senior project

The Blessing Box is located outside of St. John's Presbyterian Church at 1206 N.E. Birch St., Camas.

Gently used children's shoes, books, boxed desserts, cleaning and art supplies and unused toiletries are some of the things neighbors recently donated to the Blessing Box at St. John's Presbyterian Church in Camas. A Camas High senior, Reece Marciel, is organizing the Blessing Box as part of his senior project.

Community members have donated clothing, shoes, canned and boxed food and toiletries for neighbors in need at the Blessing Box located outside St. John's Presybterian Church in Camas.

For one Camas High School student, senior year is all about helping others help others.

“I didn’t think it was going to be used as often as it is,” said Reece Marciel of the Blessing Box located outside St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Camas, which allows community members to anonymously donate everyday items to their neighbors in need.

A member of the St. John’s congregation since he moved to Camas from Hawaii in 2014, the 17-year-old Marciel is tackling the Blessing Box for his senior project at Camas High. He spends 20 minutes here, 35 minutes there, organizing the donations and tracking what people put in — and what those in need take out of — the box.

The Camas senior has created a spreadsheet of sorts, to better track how the box is being utilized. He also is trying to predict what people will need during different times of the year.

“People are going to need more rain-resistant clothes soon … and it seems like they always need new socks,” Marciel said.

The Camas High senior also helps weed out unwanted donations such as medications of any kind, expired food and used toiletries. He is ambitious enough to hope for a Blessing Box expansion, and said it might be a good idea to have an additional Blessing Box reserved for clothing and shoes.

The Blessing Box sits outside the Camas Presbyterian church, along the building’s western edge, on Northeast Birch Street, and is accessible at all hours for those who wish to give — or take — items.

Church leaders started the Blessing Box project in 2017, after discussing the idea at an annual planning retreat for Presbyterian deacons and elders, said Deacon Marilyn Rasmussen, who lives just a short walk from the church and helps keep an eye on the Blessing Box.

Congregant Bill Kelley volunteered his skills and crafted a brick and wood Blessing Box that complements the mid-century St. John’s Presbyterian Church building.

Pastor Ken Campbell said the Blessing Box has turned into a true testament to Camas residents’ generosity.

“It really is a neighborhood thing,” Campbell said, adding that the church’s proximity to Crown Park means families often walk past the Blessing Box on their way to and from the city park. “A couple weeks ago, on a Saturday, I saw a woman with a young child, who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old, walking toward Crown Park and they stopped, opened the box and put donations in.”

Campbell said church leaders wanted the box to be convenient for people in need of everyday items like food, clothing and toiletries.

“To expect someone to come inside the church and ask for help is a lot,” Campbell said. “This (the Blessing Box) is more accessible.”

As for Marciel, taking on the Blessing Box as a senior project has helped him better understand the needs of his own community, as well as how often people are doing acts of anonymous kindness.

“I had no idea people were putting stuff in so often,” Marciel said of the frequent donations to the Blessing Box. “It does make me feel good, doing this as my senior project.”