Filling boxes and giving smiles

Published 10:03 pm Monday, December 21, 2020

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Suffolk residents proved that we are truly “in this together” during this pandemic as another giveaway saw impressive results.

Adria Mason-Exantus started Fill-a-Box in 2018. In its first year, the project provided more than 100 gifts to kids across Suffolk with the help of the community. This year, Mason-Exantus wanted to shift the focus from toys for children to food for families and other residents.

“I think that helping others is a fundamental part of humanity, especially during these tragic times,” said Mason-Exantus. “Bonding together and helping a fellow man or woman inspires me. In times of tragedy, the stories of those who help others are inspiring, such as helping the residents of Suffolk gain some holiday cheer.”

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The project for 2020 started on Dec. 1 and collected more than 60 sponsors to fill boxes. The boxes are filled with food for Christmas dinner, nonperishable foods, wipes, paper products and other items families may need during this season.

“I put a call out to the community by Facebook, and our great residents responded in a huge way,” said Mason-Exantus. “Individuals, business owners and non-profit organizations volunteered to fill a box with food and essential items to sponsor a family. We have received gift cards and donations from Pennsylvania, North Carolina and New Jersey. I received messages from individuals that saw the post on Facebook from many miles away and they wanted to help.”

Mason-Exantus is also working with New St. Matthew Holiness Church at 213 N. Fourth St. with Pastor Jo Mason. The church is helping with finding families and passing out the boxes in a secret Santa fashion.

“We are just going to leave boxes on the porch and ring the bell,” said Mason-Exantus. “Kind of like a secret Santa idea. No one knows who is going to get a box.”

Fill-a-Box has connected with families in need through the Facebook page, shelters and hotels doing Christmas stays and people calling and giving names of people they know in need.

“I am only the driver of this event,” said Mason-Exantus. “The sponsors and volunteers are the force that makes it move.”