Sam Kieffer is always looking for ways to help people who are less fortunate, whether it’s families struggling to buy food, those suffering from a serious disease or kids who just need a friend.
At age 9, the fourth-grade student at Hartwood Elementary School in the Fox Chapel Area School District has come up with ideas to assist all of them.
Last year Sam was online brainstorming for ways to help when he read about Blessing Boxes. The roadside, mini-food pantries welcome people to donate food and household supplies as well as those who need the donations. Think of the Little Free Libraries that have been sprouting throughout neighborhoods, and you’ll get the idea.
Sam’s grandfather built his Blessing Box. The Plexiglas box includes a top shelf for food items and a bottom shelf for toiletries and supplies. The box will be a year old in June. Over that time, use from both givers and receivers has grown.
“In the fall we added back-to-school supplies to the box, and they all went,” says Sam’s mom, Terri. “And at Christmas, we added small toys, and they all went.”
A storage container is attached to the Blessing Box with a sign that reads “Donations appreciated.” Neighbors frequently stop by and fill the roadside box on Jacoby Road near their home in Indiana Township. A room in their house is brimming with donations and gift cards that have been given to support Sam’s project.
“I feel happy that we are helping our community – but I feel sad that so many people need help,” Sam says.
Sam has received numerous letters thanking him for his help, with some including contributions toward the purchase of items to help others.
“Recently a Fox Chapel resident decided to continuously supply his pantry with Dove products,” Terri says. “It’s really nice to see a community come together and support him and his efforts.”
Community groups, including a church in Verona and a Girl Scout troop in Millvale, have been in touch about starting Blessing Boxes in their neighborhoods.
“My hope is that there can be a Blessing Box in every community,” Sam says.
Sam’s humanitarian efforts go beyond the Blessing Box project. Last summer, he started a lemonade stand to raise money for research for the Epidermoid Brain Tumor Society in honor of his dad, Kenneth, who suffers from a rare type of brain tumor. With the arrival of cold weather, he turned the booth into a hot chocolate stand with the help of his siblings, Jesse, 5, and Savanna, 3.
Between his traveling lemonade stand and his gofundme page, Sam has raised $7,000 for research.
Sam recently released a book of poetry, “Freedom Zone,” from which a portion of proceeds from sales through his Kieffer Publishing Facebook page will go toward brain tumor research, too.
His most recent project involves having a “buddy bench” installed at his school.
“It’s like a find-a-friend for children on the playground looking for someone to have fun with during recess,” Terri says. Sam wrote a letter to his principal about the idea last year and, through an anonymous donation, a bench was obtained and is expected to be placed at the school soon.
Sam is looking forward to summer vacation when he’ll have more time to devote to his projects to help others.
“It becomes easier when there’s no school,” he says.