Local Youth Create A Village To Raise Awareness About Homelessness

By Cheryl Conway

Some brought their sleeping bags while others just laid right inside the cardboard box to get a true sense of what it is like to be homeless.
About 33 boys and girls in grades seven through twelve braved the night, despite the stormy forecast, to attend the second annual Cardboard City outside the grounds of the St. Therese Church in Succasunna. The program was held Fri., Aug. 12, starting at 7 p.m. and lasting through the morning on Sat., Aug. 13, with most participants getting picked up around 8:45 a.m.
The church youth group came up with the idea last year to raise awareness of homelessness in Morris County and the country.
“These group of kids work and are involved in sports and always come out to plan these events,” says Anne Colucci of Sucassunna, parishioner and a parent volunteer involved in Cardboard City. One girl, who served as the Cardboard City mayor, was getting ready to go to college but still made the time to be involved.
Deacon Bruce Olsen, youth minister at the church, supervised this year’s event.
Participants paid a registration fee and then participated in a fundraiser at Fuddruckers in Succasunna that brought in $560, says Colucci. The final amount of monies raised was unknown as of press time.
Last year, the Cardboard City raised $1,300 with proceeds going to Homeless Solutions in Morristown, says Colucci.
This year, proceeds were used to purchase Survival Kits. Each kit contained a backpack filled with essentials such as underwear, t-shirt, toothbrush, soap, towel, hat, flashlight, candle, matches, can opener and baked beans. Survival Kits were then given to Roxbury Social Services for distribution to those in need.
The rest of the proceeds was to go to Bridge Run in Summit, an organization that serves soup and sandwiches to the those in need on the streets in Irvington and New York City, adds Colucci.
While most of the tenants of this year’s cardboard city were from Roxbury, a handful did come from Chester, says Colucci. Five kids from Chester, who had to complete community service, found out about the cardboard city and decided to participate.
Several officials such as the fire chief, a councilman and Assemblyman Anthony Bucco stopped in, along with a representative from Roxbury Social Services to accept the Survival Kits’ donation, says Colucci.
Bryan’s Luncheonette in Succasunna donated sandwiches, juice boxes and fruit for each participant.
“Trish, the owner of Bryan’s, made the sandwiches and she put it in a clean garbage can,” describes Colucci.
Parishioner Joe Powell donated 50 boxes, she adds.
The students put together 40 of the boxes and made a village. Some used sleeping bags inside the boxes, while “some kids were just roughing it.”
A prayer service for homeless people was held and the participants watched a movie about homeless people.
“Everything we did was geared toward homeless people,” said Colucci, even braving a stormy night by sleeping outside.
“The weather wasn’t that great; at 6 o’clock we had a really bad storm,” says Colucci. “We were going to sleep in a shelter in the gym.”
By 6 a.m. the city was taken down and at 7 a.m. a mass was held with Father Marc Mancini. Women from the Cornerstone served bagels, juice and coffee to the group.

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