Anonymous donor contributes funding for The Goodwill Box in honor of former County Auditor Mary O’Neill to help those in need

Waukon High School classes help create and install The Goodwill Box ... An anonymous donation helped fund the creation and support of The Goodwill Box, a public pantry that will offer non-perishable food items and occasionally some toiletry items for those in need. Pictured above at the installation of The Goodwill Box in the lower parking lot of the Allamakee County Courthouse are, left to right, Allamakee County Board of Supervisors Chairperson Dan Byrnes, Waukon High School NextGen Welding students Cole Kruse and Justin Murphy, Waukon High School Industrial Arts instructor Caleb Ferring, and NextGen Welding student Blake Bresnahan. Standard photo by Assistant Editor Joe Moses.

Funding from an anonymous donor, skills learned and implemented by Waukon High School students, and a willingness to try and take care of those who need it most all came together with the creation and installation of The Goodwill Box in the lower parking lot of the Allamakee County Courthouse in Waukon Tuesday, February 28.

Prompted by funding from the generosity of a donor who desired to remain anonymous, Waukon High School Industrial Arts Instructor Caleb Ferring said he was contacted about the idea of having his students construct a vessel that could be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by members of the public experiencing food insecurity or who may have otherwise fallen on hard times. Ferring said he and students from his Woodworking, Metals and Welding classes through Waukon High School and Northeast Iowa Community College started the project in early December of this past year and were involved in the design, construction and ultimate placement of what is being called The Goodwill Box.

The idea and funding for the project were all developed by the donor as a means to honor the kindness and memory of former Allamakee County Auditor Mary O’Neill, who served County leaders and residents in that capacity from 2000-2008. O’Neill passed away in July of this past year.

“We’ve had a combination of a lot of different students working on it,” Ferring said of The Goodwill Box project. “I knew right away when we were asked that it would be a great project for the kids to be involved with, and it supports not only a great cause but also honors the memory of a great person.”

As evident in the photo accompanying this article, The Goodwill Box is a three-shelved cabinet with clear sliding doors that has been anchored to the concrete in the southeast corner of the lower Allamakee County Courthouse parking lot. The Goodwill Box was put in place by Ferring and three of his students from his work-based learning program called “Next Gen Welds” that is part of the Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) welding certificate program led by Ferring at Waukon High School to give students real world applicable experience with what they are learning in their classes.

As established by the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors and Allamakee County Relief Office Director Rebecca Hawes, the enclosed case will be stocked with nonperishable food items by the County Relief Office. Such food items may include cereal, uncooked pasta, granola bars or a variety of other dry, nonperishable foods or mixes. Some toiletry items may be stocked on occasion in an effort to meet any of those needs that may arise for area residents.

The Goodwill Box will be consistently monitored by courthouse personnel, and it is not intended at this time for the general public to leave items in for others. Any food, funding or other items that members of the public or other organizations wish to donate should be contributed by contacting Director Hawes at the Allamakee County Relief Office. Signage placed within The Goodwill Box explains as such: “This is a Goodwill Food Box. Take what you need, leave some for others. Please do not put any items within this box.”

The Allamakee County Relief Office is also available to the public for food or other assistance inside the Allamakee County Courthouse in Waukon Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. The Relief Office can also be contacted by calling 563-568-3591.