Cardboard Nation project looks to help homeless in Taylor County

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By Calen McKinney

Their mission is to help people. And even though money is tight, that's what they're doing.

The doors at the Green River Ministries homeless shelter are open, and the people there want to see it stay that way. To make sure that happens, GRM volunteers are organizing three fundraisers to help Taylor County residents.

GRM, located on Clem Haskins Boulevard, houses Taylor County Food Pantry, Taylor County Crisis Relief, Campbellsville Lion's Club, Campbellsville/Taylor County Habitat for Humanity and other organizations. GRM began in 2002 as a nonprofit organization to serve the Campbellsville area, as a "one-stop shop" for those in need. The homeless shelter opened in 2007.

Board members learned last year that they wouldn't be receiving some funding they relied on to keep the doors open. Since then, they have hosted fundraisers and pleaded to the community.

Last month, more than $1,700 was raised during a chili supper.

On April 11, GRM will host a yard sale. Items to be sold for donations are being accepted.

Cardboard Nation, an event that has participants sleep outside in cardboard boxes, will be at Campbellsville University's Alumni & Friends Park on Friday, April 25.

In July, GRM will host a golf scramble. More details about all of the events will be published in coming weeks.

Leslie Carver, a CU master of social work student, said GRM will partner with the Social Workers In Touch Can Help Club at CU to host Cardboard Nation.

GRM officials want to open the event to the public, she said, so they can get a glimpse of what it might be like to be homeless.

Homeless people are often thought of as those who don't have any possessions or wear rough clothing, Carver said. But that's not always the case.

"It's not like Cincinnati or Louisville," Carver said. "Most of our people here look like you and I. You have no idea until you ask their story."

During Cardboard Nation, Carver said, there will be a soup line, entertainment and activities. The event will be from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. the following morning.

Participants used to pay "rent" to sleep in their boxes. This year, participants will be asked to simply donate to GRM. And Carver says GRM also needs residents to donate cardboard boxes for the event.

"We're just trying to get the community more involved," she said. "I'm excited. I think it's gonna be interesting."

Though donations are always needed, Carver said there are many organizations and people who faithfully donate to GRM each month.

"There's still a lot of assistance that we need," she said. "We've just been really busy here. Just trying to assist the community in any way we can."

Most of those who come to GRM need food or transportation. She said GRM always needs help with that, and many local churches and residents have answered the call. To name a couple, Carver said, Amazon.com donated a truckload of items recently, and Robinson Creek Baptist Church members recently donated items and built shelves for them.

Carver said GRM Board members are very grateful to the community for helping them keep their organization alive.

"We're not in the hole, but there is a mortgage each month that we have to pay," she said. "We have to be frugal and we are very frugal. We're hanging in there."

Carver interviews potential GRM clients and follows up with them once they are staying at the shelter. Clients are required to show they are searching for employment and a permanent place to stay.

"They have to do it themselves," Carver said. "It takes a lot for a lot of people to ask for help. Can you imagine if you had nothing?"

And though Carver, like the majority of those at GRM, doesn't receive any payment for her work, she said it's worth it to see someone succeed.

"I think that shows where everybody's hearts (is)," Carver said.

She said she and the others at GRM help clients with interview skills, writing resumes and learning how to manage money. And while helping people is rewarding, Carver said that doesn't mean it's easy.

"Every day, it's hard to not walk out with a heavy heart," she said. "It takes a toll on you mentally and spiritually."

Those who want to participate in Cardboard Nation can come to the event, Carver said. No registration is necessary.

Items can be donated for the GRM yard sale at any time. GRM is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To donate online, visit www.greenriverministries.org. Checks can be mailed to Green River Ministries, 55 Clem Haskins Blvd., Campbellsville, KY 42718. For more information, call (270) 465-9880.

Carver said she is willing to talk to groups about GRM and its mission. She said it's still surprising to hear that some people don't know there is a homeless shelter in Taylor County, or that GRM exists.

"A lot of people don't see why this agency is here," she said.