Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 20, 2014

The love keeps growing

Lexie’s Box of Love has new home

Lana Bellamy
The Independent

ASHLAND — What began as personal donations to the homeless community during Church Without Walls services has expanded to a clothing drive housed at the Kentucky National Guard Armory on Lexington Avenue.

Lexie’s Box of Love had its first clothing donation drive in the armory with several volunteers from the church coordinator Debbie Qualls identifies with, Hilltop Christian Church in Westwood.

Several tables were placed in the armory’s gymnasium and were piled with clothing items, supplemented by a few tables on the side adorned with stuffed animals, book, hygiene items and any other donations given to the group.

Lexie’s Box of Love was started by Lexie Qualls when she was just 6. Her mother, Debbie, explained her daughter’s enthusiasm to help those in need debuted when they saw a homeless man sleeping on a bench downtown and Lexie wanted to help him.

“She wanted to take him home with us,” she said. “But instead I tried to explain to her that there were other ways we could help homeless.”

Thus, began Lexie’s Box of Love. Qualls said the young girl is responsible for the church’s involvement with the donation program.

“When she was just 6 years old, she got up in front of the whole church by herself and just explained what she wanted to do and how she wanted to start helping the homeless,” she said.

Soon after, members of the church began volunteering to help bring items to CWW on Saturday mornings, make breakfasts for the services and routinely dropped off donations at the Qualls residence.

Qualls said they usually attend Church Without Walls, but donations are so plentiful it’s becoming too difficult to haul items back and forth from Central Park for services. She hopes they can start making the clothing drive at the armory a monthly event.

Angie Conley, member of Hilltop Christian, can attest to Lexie’s leadership with the community service project.

“The desire of Debbie and George (Lexie’s father) and Lexie to give back has really opened the eyes of everyone at our church,” she said.

This was Conley’s first opportunity to get involved with a church or community service program and said it has opened her eyes to the level of need in the Ashland area she was previously unaware of.

“Our whole church is now somehow involved with helping homeless through Lexie’s Box of Love. Our assistant youth pastor, Kenny, now sometimes preaches at Church Without Walls,” she said. “It wasn’t just a 6-year-old just walking in saying they wanted to do this and people saying, ‘Yeah, OK, whatever.’ The whole church got behind her.”

Teresa Muth, also a member of Hilltop Christian, was able to interact and relate to visitors picking through donation items while also engaging in religious discussions.

“I just tell them Jesus is our savior and can help you through this,” she said.

Muth said she had been homeless before and, therefore, knew their pain. She said she knew most were scared to speak up or ask for help, but wanted them to know she’s there if they ever need anything.

Lexie was unable to attend most of the drive this year because of her involvement with the Ashland Youth Ballet. Qualls said the girl is 9 and plans to continue to help her mother and church with the expansion of the program.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.