When businesses closed in March due to the pandemic, Ghost in the Machine owner Erik Rieth wasn’t sure how long the shutdown would last. And he didn’t know if the shop would reopen. After they had been closed for a week, he returned to Ghost in the Machine to “hibernate” the shop, unplugging unused appliances and grabbing any important paperwork. That’s when he realized he wanted to stay connected with the community that embraced his business.
In a “completely last-minute” move, he says, he ran up to CVS down the road and bought some food and essentials and placed them in a cardboard box on the shop’s front steps. He accompanied it with a simple sign: please take only what you need… leave what you can for your neighbors… take care of each other!
It was a simple idea: by mid-March, the state estimated roughly 18,000 jobs. The uncertainty of the pandemic meant long-term job prospects were simply unknown. And—we now know—hunger in Massachusetts doubled in 2020. So it made sense to Erik to offer an opportunity to give back to the community that had embraced the shop.
The idea took off and rapidly grew. Within a week, clients and staff reached out to tell him it was a great idea—and that it had already become self-sustaining. The goods Erik left were quickly taken, and were very quickly replenished by neighbors.
So Erik, who lives an hour away, made a massive trip to BJs, grabbing goods in bulk—and a large lidded plastic tote to hold it all. And people kept coming.
Within a couple of weeks, it seemed all of Oak Square was talking about “The Box.” Neighbors dropped by necessities, extra kitchen utensils, coats, gloves, and other small bits. The #BrightonMA hashtag lit up with photos of the box, encouraging neighbors to come by and drop off goods or to pick up things they needed.
Now that Ghost in the Machine has reopened, they no longer have space on their stoop for a box—and coronavirus precautions mean only clients with appointments can enter the shop. He’s looking forward to planning more ways to help in 2021, including planning an upcoming raffle in which proceeds will go to feeding others. And he’s excited to see the neighborhood come together to support this initiative, as they did back in March.
“The neighborhood really stepped up,” Erik says. “A lot of people said to me, ‘I want to help but I don’t know how.’ This was an easy way to help.”
If this story inspires you, keep this power of 10 going and show your support by giving $10. Your $10 may not feel like a big deal, but when combine with 10 of your friends and neighbor’s who join you to give $10, that starts to make an exponentially bigger impact. By working together we can do more than any of us can do alone. That’s the Power of 10.
Looking for more inspiration? Read more Power of 10 stories.