Message In A Box Found At St. Therese’s Cardboard City
By Chelsea Opong-Wadeer
Imagine one day ending up with nothing. All the money once saved up in the bank has gone down the drain never to return. Now the landlord has given, one to many, passes for the rent and meals have been scarce for the past couple of weeks. This image represents the lifestyle of becoming and being homeless in the world today.
Here is the story of 40 high school students that came together on one Friday night in August to experience what it would be like if they were homeless. They called it “The Cardboard City.” St. Therese Church’s CORE Group in Succasunna brought the idea forward after participating in ministries for those less fortunate than them in state and out of state.
“I think this event opened their eyes,” said Deccan Bruce Olsen of St. Therese, “of life for other people who are in need and less fortunate than they are. It gave them a sense of their responsibility for helping the poor.”
According to Olsen, the team has met the needs of others in other areas of the U.S. during their mission’s trip, met the needs of others in state during their service with Brick Ministries in Summit, and met the needs of others in their area through this event.
“The kids always want to do more and more,” said Anne Colucci, mother to Dana Colucci, helper for the event. “The kids’ enthusiasm really sparked the communities outreach for the event.”
She said, “I thought the preparation was going to be crazy, but it wasn’t.”
Local businesses such as PC Richards and Sons and Home Depot helped by donating whatever boxes they could find for St. Therese. But one man, Joe Powell, really answered prayers for Colucci after he had heard about the event.
Powell, parishioner of St. Therese went to Deccan Olsen after the CORE group announced the event to the congregation and asked, “Would you need any boxes for this event? I work for a company that makes boxes.”
“When Bruce told me this I was so thankful!” Colucci said. “God really worked once the word got out about our event, it was really amazing.”
The participants of the event were served small paper bagged lunches, that they would retrieve from a make shift garbage can. This was a way for the kids to see how homeless people sometimes have to get their food to get through the day. Bryan’s Luncheonette in Roxbury provided the food used for the lunches for the kids. Colucci added Robin Porter, St. Therese’s Music Minister even made a small breakfast for the kids to have the morning after.
“We were very nervous.” Colucci said, “but like I said there were so many who came to help. The Roxbury Police Department and fire department both came to make sure that the kids were safe. The town Councilman Marty Schmidt came, and we had Janet a local social worker in our area talk to the kids about homelessness.”
Along with sleeping in boxes, the kids also participated in fun educational exercises to learn more about homelessness. Janet Wald, Roxbury social services director, explained to the kids how homeless people live and the backpacks that they carry on them in order to get by.
“Each of them got a backpack that would hold their lunches, and other useful items like a can opener,” Colucci said. “This really surprised the kids cause they wouldn’t find this in their backpacks.”
The group raised more than $1,000 after the registration fee of $25, donations from local businesses and parishioners. This being the CORE group’s first year hosting the event, they were very proud of how much they raised and are already in full swing for preparing for next year.
The money raised from this event is being given to, Homeless Solutions, a Morristown organization that provides shelter and services for 35 homeless people and 10 families.
“We don’t dictate we guide,” said Deccan Olsen. “Anne and I are just here to help them achieve, and seeing how hard they worked on this was just truly amazing.”
For more information on the event and to learn more about St. Therese Church, visit https://www.stthereseroxbury.org/.