MORTON — Caring Cupboards have popped up throughout the village.
Or, more accurately, been "planted," say the Community United Church of Christ members who created and are the driving forces behind the community service project.
The five wood cupboards, purchased by the church, were planted last year by church families and friends. The cupboards contain essential items, called "blessings," like food, paper products, personal care items, cleaning supplies and school supplies.
The blessings are free to whoever needs them. Items not available at food pantries or through assistance programs have proven to be especially popular.
Two cupboards are on Community United Church of Christ property. One is at the church, 300 N. Main St.. The other is in a vacant lot the church owns at 223 N. First Ave. and is specifically for school supplies.
Two cupboards are on village property on North Main Street by Village Hall and West Jefferson Street across from Eli's Coffee Shop.
The fifth cupboard is at the Morton Knights of Columbus hall at 616 W. David St. and is kept stocked by Knights of Columbus members. The cupboard across from Eli's is stocked by the Morton Veterans of Foreign Wars post auxiliary.
It hasn't been a problem keeping the cupboards stocked, said Sharyl Nuske, a church property board member who is overseeing the project along with fellow board member Scott Buffington.
"Not just our church members are stocking the church's cupboards," Nuske said. "Community members have stepped up, too. We've even had children stocking a cupboard instead of getting birthday presents."
The church's cupboards are being used.
"Very much so," Nuske said. "The church's cupboards are stocked just about every other day. When we open a cupboard, everything is usually gone. There is a need."
Joe Varda, a Knights of Columbus trustee, said the Catholic fraternal service organization's cupboard needs to be filled "darn close to every day. But we're keeping it filled. The cupboard represents what we stand for, which is helping people.
"When Scott (Buffington) presented the idea of a cupboard to us at a council meeting last summer, our members had nothing but good things to say about it, and the vote to get a cupboard was unanimous."
Nuske said she'd like to see community organizations, businesses, sports teams and other churches plant cupboards in Morton or agree to stock ones that have been planted.
"I'd especially love to find groups that would stock the cupboard by Village Hall and take care of the cupboard that has school supplies," she said.
It costs about $100 to $150 to build and plant a cupboard, Nuske said.
A $1,250 grant from the Morton Community Foundation covered Community United Church of Christ's cost to create and plant the five cupboards, which include bigger versions at the church and Knights of Columbus hall.
Nuske said she learned about the cupboard idea through social media. After doing some research, she brought the idea to her church and village, which were both supportive.
Organizations interested in building and planting a cupboard or stocking a cupboard can contact Nuske at (309) 657-0992 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.