KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — In Cabarrus County, which sits northeast of Charlotte, North Carolina's city center, one in five children goes hungry and an estimated 22% of its residents are food insecure.
Sheryl Kluge looked at those stats and decided to take action. In 2019, she started a nonprofit organization called 1CAN which has the goal of helping those who need it the most. Its motto is "changing lives one can at a time." Kluge said it’s really that simple.
“That one can of tuna fish, that one can of soup, it could be the only meal that a family has for the day," Kluge explained. "That one can of peanut butter could be the only thing a homeless person has to eat for days. So, you're changing that person's life."
1CAN operates differently from a lot of other food distribution organizations. The food collected by 1CAN is placed in designated boxes called Blessing Boxes. There are seven of them throughout the cities of Kannapolis and Concord.
“This is a way for anyone who is struggling with not having enough food for either themselves or their family or may need personal hygiene items, that they can come here," Kluge said. "As it says, 'Take what you need, leave what you can.' Nobody asking you questions. No forms to fill out. No qualifications. So, the anonymity is very important to the people that use these boxes.”
1CAN is 100% volunteer based, and all of the supplies -- even the Blessing Boxes themselves -- are donated.
This summer, while most boys his age were playing video games and enjoying being out of school, Gabriel Perry, 17, decided to give back by building a Blessing Box for his Eagle Scout project.
“Every Tuesday and Friday, I go and stock my box," Perry said. "Sometimes I'll see people taking stuff out, and that makes me feel great because I know it's actually being used."
Harrisburg Miss 4th of July members donated 6,000 items to 1CAN for the nonprofit’s Snack Pack program benefiting schools in the city of Kannapolis and Cabarrus County. Incoming Hickory Ridge High School freshman, and winner of the pageant’s Grand Majestic title Bailey Williams collected 1,900 items.
“We only have us," Bailey said. "We need to take care of each other and make sure we're there for one another constantly. It’s that kind of caring that fuels 1CAN. Helping anyone who needs it, no questions asked."
While food insecurity may seem foreign to some, Kluge had a chilling reminder.
"One flat tire, one job loss, one emergency, one health issue, we're all just that moment away from having to utilize something like this,” Kluge said.
For just a few dollars, you can make a personal hygiene kit for Charlotte area nonprofits to help the homeless.
Volunteers with 1CAN restock the boxes, sometimes daily. Their boxes at Rotary Square, Fire Station 4 in Concord and boxes at Cabarrus Health Alliance and Fire Station1 in Kannapolis remain the busiest boxes that serve many people daily.
1CAN needs donations of food and personal hygiene items. Items can be purchased from their Amazon Smile wish list.
WCNC Charlotte purchased personal hygiene items and assembled them into bags to distribute in Blessing Boxes.
A simple hygiene kit includes the following:
Items can be sample size or full and should be placed in a sealed Ziplock bag.
Additional suggested items to include:
- Women’s sanitary products
- Q Tips
- Hand sanitizer
- Do not include razors since they can be used to hurt someone
The nonprofit also needs help keeping the boxes stocked. They will provide the food, but they need volunteers to go and straighten and stock. It takes about 15 minutes. Those able to volunteer their time can contact Sheryl at 843-330-0525 or email@example.com.
In 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, families affected by food insecurity skyrocketed, and another three Blessing Boxes boxes were added in other areas within Cabarrus County bringing the total to seven. 1CAN was able to assist families with over 20,000 food and personal hygiene items in 2020.
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