(Photos by Scott Welton, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Members of a local church youth group will spend the night in a "box city" this weekend to raise awareness and funds for the homeless.
Abby Reeve, youth director for the First United Methodist Church, said participants will set up cardboard box shelters on a grassy area near the church at about 6 p.m. Saturday. "We will be out there all night long," she said.
The idea was suggested by church member Tammy Eifert.
"Our church used to do it a long time ago and it kind of slid by the wayside," Eifert said. "I had done similar project in college. ... I felt it was really relevant to our kids right now since we have a new homeless shelter in Sikeston."
Upon hearing the idea, members of the youth group "were very excited -- they were all for it," Reeve said. "We have about 15 as of right now that I have signed up."
Those who signed up are now gathering pledges for donations which will go the Guardian Angel Overnight Emergency Shelter.
"I am looking forward to it," said Kali Brooks, 16, of the event. "I think it's going to a good cause."
"It's a good idea," agreed Eric Sharp, 15. "It will bring the youth to realize what the homeless feel."
"We try to make it authentic," Eifert said. "The kids will really get a small taste of sacrifice -- we live in the most affluent country in the world and our kids rarely do without."
"Each child is allowed to bring the clothes on their back, a sleeping bag and a flashlight," Reeve said. "We are going to serve soup and bread, the kind of meal they would get at a soup kitchen."
Participants can also expect to be somewhat less comfortable than they are used to.
"The weather is supposed to be kind of cool this weekend," Eifert said.
"The box will provide a shelter if it is windy," Reeve said.
Before going to sleep for the night, the youth will have activities "showing them how the homeless community has to fend for themselves," Reeve said, during which they can earn extras socks or blankets.
In the morning, participants will return to the life of the more fortunate with a breakfast by the church's Nurture Committee. "You know how teenagers are: they'll be hungry by that time," Reeve said.
During that morning's church service, participants will share what they learned from the experience with the congregation, according to Eifert.
"As Christians we need to reach out," Eifert said. "This activity is the youths' way to present Christ to the community."
A similar event for adult members of the community is scheduled from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Nov. 17 as the first of several events planned for National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week Nov. 17-22.
Reeve said the youth event was scheduled in advance of National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week to work around other church and school activities as well as for a couple of other reasons.
"We didn't want it to be too cold for our younger youth," she said. "And we wanted to let them be able to able participate because the events that are happing during Homeless Awareness Week are mainly for adults."