In November of 1999, Pastor Eric Johns chose to live with the homeless for one week. He left the comfort of his home and slept outside and in shelters. He ate in soup kitchens. He became a homeless man. This drew the attention of the local media and awakened the community to the needs of inner-city people. His week on the streets has continued every year since it began. During the week, people who see the story on the local news call and give funds to support Boxes of Love, a ministry that provides food and toys to families in need during the holiday season.
Boxes of Love began with one church helping five families with Christmas dinner and toys. Over the years, Boxes of Love has grown into a coalition of churches, businesses, and individuals who work together in partnership to help families in the Buffalo area. Pastors and church leaders from around the United States and Canada have traveled to Buffalo to learn how to do the same thing in their communities. Each year Boxes of Love takes place in several different states as well as India, Pakistan, and Albania.
Volunteers work around the clock at a warehouse, packing boxes of food and wrapping gifts for children. Distribution sites are held throughout the month of December. There have been as many as twenty-five locations in which food and toys have been distributed to families in need. These sites have included churches, community centers, schools, and street corners.
In 2010, Boxes of Love assisted more than two thousand six hundred families. Five thousand children received new, wrapped Christmas gifts.
Leadership from the Buffalo Dream Center now travels throughout the United States training churches on how to reach their communities with Boxes of Love.