Box City of Hope fundraiser to help homeless
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News September 19, 2012 5:34PM
The Raichart children from the 2011 Box City of Hop: Bethany, Daniel, Abigail and Caleb. HTe entire family looks forward to the evnet and even plans the rest of htier obligations around it. SUBMITTED PHOTO
If you go …
What: Box City of Hope
When: 4 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Sautrday
Where: Galowich Family YMCA, 749 Houbolt Road, Joliet
What: Scavenger hunt, speakers, family movie, role-playing, pizza
Why: To raise awareness of the homeless person’s plight and funds for MorningStar Mission in Joliet. Staying overnight is encouraged, but optional.
Cost: $10 per adult and $5 per child. Optional pledge sheets available
Contact volunteer coordinator Jackie Kinney: 815-722-5780 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: October 21, 2012 1:20PM
JOLIET — MorningStar Mission’s annual Box City of Hope means so much to Darren Raichart of Channahon, he plans family events, including one son’s birthday, around it.
In addition to the unhurried bonding Raichart enjoys with his family — his wife Kenya and his children Abby, 8; Bethany, 6; Caleb, 4; and Daniel, 21 months — he’s thankful for a glimpse into what homeless people in Will County and across the United States experience night after night.
“It’s amazing how much protection you get from the elements in a cardboard box once you enclose it and bundle with blankets,” Raichart, a special education teacher at Hufford Junior High School in Joliet, said. “It’s not like staying at a hotel and we go back to our homes the next morning, but it does give us a small taste.”
On Friday, about 225 people will gather at Joliet’s Galowich Family YMCA to spend the night inside large cardboard boxes (A contest is held for the “best decorated) and scavenge for newspapers (to stuff into shoes or use for insulation), clothing and blankets to stay warm while sleeping outside on a chilly fall night.
“We want people to understand those items are not readily available to the people on the street,” said Terri Micetich, director of development at MorningStar Mission in Joliet. “Sometimes people have to scavenge for them and finding these items can be very difficult. We want to give a true picture of what the homeless population has to do just to make it through the day.”
Once Box City “residents” have located their items, they go to the “soup kitchen” for pizza, chips, cookies, and beverages. Other event features include testimonials by current guests staying in MorningStar Mission’s family center, performance by a worship band, a family friendly movie and devotions.
New, but optional, this year is role-playing. Participants will receive a scenario, such as a pretending to be a homeless single parent with three children. The challenge is to register the children for school and solicit various services without having access to any forms of identification, including birth certificates and social security cards.
Trained volunteers will also role play by staffing different agency tables, such as the secretary of state, Will County clerk, Social Security and the U.S. Post Office, as the guests try to navigate the system.
“They’ll see how hard it can be to get help when you have no information,” Micetich said. “You can’t just walk in and get what you need and walk out. Also, it is very hard for the homeless to even get to these places.”
‘Important to reach out’
Susan Lee, director of advancement at the Greater Joliet YMCA and an annual Box City overnight resident, said the event partners well with the YMCA’s mission of building healthy spirits, minds and bodies. The Box City event is an impactful revelation, Lee said.
“I hear numerous stories of people successful in the business world and happily married until, for some reason, something goes wrong,” Lee said. “Maybe they turned to alcohol or drugs or maybe they’re victims of the economic crash. It’s important to reach out and treat these people like human beings.”
Mary Gajcak, chair of Box City of Hope planning committee feels it’s nearly impossible to attend Box City and remain unaffected by its message. Gajcak has witnessed women in their 70s and 80s sleep in boxes ill-equipped for warmth or families wake up with frost on their heads because their boxes were not long enough.
Then, at the 6 a.m. wakeup and despite having had fun, the guests emerge groggy and tired as they pile up their belongings. “They’re so happy to be going home,” Gajcak said.