Janesville70°

Kids think outside in boxes at Shantytown

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Catherine W. Idzerda
October 7, 2007
— Sometimes you’ve got to get into a box to get out of your own box.

On Saturday night, young people at St. John Lutheran Church built a cardboard shantytown on the church’s lawn and slept there to raise awareness of—and money for—the problem of homelessness.


“People are homeless in Janesville, and you’ll see it if you take the time to look,” said Brian Leone, who works with the church’s youth groups.


That’s part of what the event was about—to get kids to acknowledge homelessness in their community.


It’s also a way to get them to partake, in a small way, in the life of the homeless.


“For dinner, what we get to eat is what they get in a soup kitchen: soup and a peanut butter sandwich,” explained April Witkowski, 15, a sophomore at Parker High School.


By the time it’s bedtime, the kids are hungry. It might be the first time in their lives they go to bed hungry.


They also have to give up the electronic pleasures of home: no cell phones, Gameboys, iPods or portable DVD players.


The event takes participants out of their comfort zones, and the hope is that they’ll learn from that, said Andy McWilliams, who was helping Leone with the event.


“It gets kids out of their boxes; it takes them away from their normal settings,” he said.


Greg Brady, 15, a Parker High School freshman, seemed to get it.


“You really see all the things you take for granted,” Brady said.


The event is a fund-raiser for Rock County Habitat for Humanity. Last year, the shantytown raised about $1,200 through pledges, said Dave Thomas, the executive director for the local Habitat.


Youth and adults from the church also help build a Habitat home during the year, and students participate in a variety of other ministries to benefit the needy.



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