Detroit Free Press: Ilitch School alumna Lila Al-Shwaf starts Midtown blessing box

The tall wooden cabinet outside the University Islamic Center of Detroit in Midtown is open to all and crammed with necessities. Similar to Little Free Libraries and Little Free Pantries, the concept is simple: Take what you need, leave what you can. It's called a blessing box and it officially debuted less than a month ago, on March 12, as an effort by the Muslim Student Association at Wayne State University to address need in their community. However, the effort is part of a wider interfaith movement that is sweeping the country. "The types of things that go in the box are nonperishable food items and hygiene items, so some of the things we've put up in the past were: toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, floss, clean socks, a hat, maybe mittens, but also food times. Mostly canned food and things that won't spoil, like pasta, rice or cereal," said Lila Al-Shwaf, who first brought the idea up to her peers. The Midtown blessing box was prompted when Al-Shwaf, 22, stumbled upon a Facebook video of Maggie Ballard and her son, Paxton, setting up a blessing box in Wichita, Kansas. Al-Shwaf said she was so touched by their work she wanted to set something up in her own community. Al-Shwaf, who was a senior studying supply chain management in the Mike Ilitch School of Business at the time, shared the video with the Muslim Student Association in January 2017 and the team jumped on the idea. Al-Shwaf was recognized with the Ilitch School's 25 Under 25 award in 2017.

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