By Kym Gable

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They call them “boxes of goodness,” and what’s inside is meant to lift the spirits and ignite hope in Pittsburgh’s unsheltered communities.

Since its launch in May, the new non-profit organization Books Bridge Hope has distributed dozens of boxes in partnership with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and its community engagement officers.

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Officers keep the boxes in their cars and hand them out to people experiencing homelessness. Inside the boxes are items like socks, toiletries, snacks, writing supplies and books.

Founder Lillie Leonardi is a 26-year veteran of law enforcement and former FBI Community Affairs Coordinator. She lost her job and livelihood after she was diagnosed with PTSD.

Leonardi responded during the Sept. 11, 2001, plane crash in Shanksville, and books helped her heal, ultimately guiding her toward a new mission of writing and outreach.

An author herself, Leonardi makes certain each box contains works from local authors.

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“As I descended that mental health cycle, one of my psychologists recommended reading, journaling, and meditation,” she said.

Leonardi showed KDKA’s Kym Gable the note cards that go into each box.

“To say hello, well-wishes,” Leonardi said.

Among the others who help assemble the boxes are high school students from the FBI’s Lean and Earn Program. They spend 25 hours a week shadowing officers and participating in community outreach initiatives like Books Bridge Hope.

You can learn more about Books Bridge Hope here.

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