Originally published on Malvern Daily Record on February 7, 2023
Kooper Wallace is a young man with a big heart who lives in Magnet Cove with his parents and siblings. He is attending classes virtually this school season through Arkansas Virtual Academy, and one of his online assignments is turning out to be a benefit for the local community.
One of the tasks presented to Kooper through his virtual STEM class, taught under the guidance of Elizabeth Wallace (no relation), was for him to find a unique construction project to complete in his local area.
Kooper had the idea of building a Blessing Box and finding somewhere local to install it, seeing it as a great way to both fulfill the requirements of the assignment while also offering help to people in the neighborhood who could use it.
Kooper got the idea from his former church, One Refuge in Hot Springs, and he knew that it had been a true blessing to the congregation and the people who partook of the items.
“We had a Blessing Box there, and my EAST class said we had to come up with a project, so I thought it would be a good idea,” Kooper said.
Blessing Boxes are a popular way organizations and individuals share essential items with others in their community. Weather-resistant boxes are built and installed in a designated area, loaded with non-perishable food, toiletries and other items, and made open to the public.
Malvern has several such Blessing Boxes in various locations, and they have helped many people in the local area.
People who donate to Blessing Boxes also benefit from knowing they’ve done something good to help those around them who are less fortunate, or those who happen to fall upon hard times.
The Wallace family used to attend church at One Refuge in Hot Springs until it closed its doors a few years ago. They currently have no house of worship to call their own spiritual home, and thus, no particular church they could approach about the Blessing Box idea.
“I put a post on Facebook looking for donations to help build it,” Kooper’s mom, Jessica Wallace, said. Once she decided to share her son’s plan and their desire to find a church that would be interested in having a Blessing Box installed to her personal Facebook page, a member of Magnet Cove United Methodist Church happened to come across it while she was scrolling one day.
“She had posted on Facebook that she was looking for a church,” Magnet Cove UMC Pastor Tammy Harrell said, explaining how she and Kooper’s mom first became acquainted. Harrell has been with the church for three years.
“One of my members saw it, Erica Laughlin, and she said ‘This sounds like a good idea.’ I said yeah, it sounds like a great idea!”
It just so happened that members of the church had been wanting to do something like this for a long time but hadn’t made concrete plans to move in that direction, until spurred on by Kooper’s idea.
Magnet Cove UMC performs numerous ministries each year, such as providing food to local MC students through the Backpack Program and collecting toys and items for Operation Christmas Child. They were the perfect partner for Kooper in this endeavor, because they have resources to help fill the box periodically, and Kooper can keep an eye on his pet project because the church is close to his home. The Wallace family lives just three houses down from Magnet Cove UMC.
Kooper and his mom can see the church building from their yard, but they’d never been to the nearby church before Kooper’s project took shape.
Kooper’s proposal soon became much bigger than a simple class project. He had every intention of building the box himself, but after his mom put those feelers out into the Facebook universe, the project practically came together all by itself.
“My friend called me and he said, that’s what our ministry is, we build the boxes,” Pastor Harrell said. Her colleague at Green Forest United Methodist Church reached out to let her know that Kooper’s mission was right in line with their own, and they would be more than happy to build and furnish the Blessing Box for the project.
The congregants at Green Forest UMC constructed a solid wooden box with a metal latch and glass doors, making it easy to see what items are available. They brought the box and accessory items to the Magnet Cove church, and then it fell to Kooper to get the entire construction assembled and installed.
Kooper decorated the Blessing Box, attached it firmly to the pole, and worked until midnight the night before Sunday service to ensure the placement of the whole assembly, before the congregation gathered the next morning to worship and mark the very special occasion.
Kooper’s project is the first such online STEM assignment completed through the Arkansas Virtual Academy this year. He has been invited to the 2023 EAST Conference in Hot Springs March 14-16 to make a special presentation about this whole experience.
For more information about the Blessing Box or the services at Magnet Cove United Methodist Church, join them on Sundays at 22292 Arkansas Highway 51, right next door to the Panther Pass Grocery & Gas station across from Magnet Cove School District.
To learn more about Arkansas Virutal Academy visit https://arva.k12.com/