Replacing homelessness with hope

Volunteers asked to forgo comforts for Cardboard Box City fundraiser
Feb. 26, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

One Lee County nonprofit is not only hoping local residents will spend a night in a cardboard box come spring — it's counting on it.

Family Promise of Lee County is urging representatives of nonprofits, church youth groups and individuals of all ages to spend a night in a cardboard box to raise awareness and funds for local homeless families in May. The event, which was originally scheduled for the end of March, will take place at Southern Lee High School on May 3.

The Box City event is the primary fundraiser for Family Promise, according to the nonprofit’s Executive Director Fredrika Cooke, but it also serves as a community awareness project.

“This is an excellent venture for the entire family,” she said. “It is definitely a wonderful opportunity to get young children involved so they can get a clear awareness of the need in the community and how to make positive changes ... .”

Family Promise helps homeless families transition to affordable and stable housing, Cooke said, and also connects them to an interfaith hospitality network — which provides them temporary shelter in local churches.

Family Promise Board of Directors President Cornelia Olive said while many people enjoy this annual event, it can be a challenging experience.

“It is brutal, as far as being out all night and being in a box,” she said. “But the excitement is in the decorations some people do. … It's amazing because they fix [the boxes] like condos and bunch them together.”

Many people spend the first portion of the evening decorating their boxes, attempting to make them home. Spending the night in a box is symbolic of what befalls many families on a daily basis, Olive said.

“There are all sorts of reasons why people become homeless,” she said. “And to think [there is] a single child in our area who has no place that is safe and warm and dry [to sleep] every night of his life is unthinkable.”

One cardboard box is $75, two boxes is $100 and three boxes is $150. People can register by calling (919) 718-1540 or by emailing familypromiseleeco@gmail.com. People can also register the day of the event.