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Homeless ... for a night

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CU social work students sponsor 'Cardboard Nation' event

By Calen McKinney

They slept under the stars in decorated, but cold, cardboard boxes. They went without their cell phones and laptops for a night and had limited food.

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They gave up their "Home Sweet Home" for one night.

Campbellsville University's Carver School of Social Work and the Social Workers in Touch Can Help Club asked for volunteers to experience life as a homeless person for one night under the shelter of nothing more than a cardboard box.

And many people answered the call.

The second annual Cardboard Nation event, hosted by the SWITCH Club, began last Friday at 5 p.m. on CU's Stapp Lawn and ended at 7 a.m. the next morning.

The event was planned regardless of weather conditions.

All participants spent the night in a cardboard box provided by the social work department. Participants were allowed only a sleeping bag or blanket.

Food, cell phones, laptops and other forms of entertainment were left at home.

Activities at the event include a soup line, acoustic music, several contests and a scavenger hunt. Prizes were given away throughout the night.

A minimum "rent" fee of $25 was required, though participants were encouraged to collect $100 in sponsorship money. The more money raised by each participant resulted in a larger cardboard box for the night.

All proceeds from the event go to Green River Ministries.

Green River Ministries, Campbellsville's homeless shelter, provides housing, rent and utility assistance. It will celebrate its third anniversary in August.

Misty Willis, secretary for the Carver School of Social Work, said this year's event was a success.

"It was perfect in every way, for the situation," she said. "The feedback I'm getting says it was a wonderful experience."

Curry says the night was very cold and dreary, but it didn't rain like last year, when the event ended with several wet boxes.

Last year's Cardboard Nation event raised about $7,400 and nearly 150 people participated, with 45 sleeping in cardboard boxes.

Willis said this year's numbers, she has been told, are about the same.

Misty Curry, Green River Ministries executive director, said this year's event raised about $4,000, though more donations are expected. She said she believes the downturn in the economy could have affected the event's donations.

The money collected will be put toward extending Green River Ministries' homeless shelter, she said, for a kitchen and dining area and caretaker apartment.

Green River Ministries has received a $20,000 challenge grant from the Kentucky Housing Corp. that requires the same amount to be matched, Curry said. With this year's Cardboard Nation donations added to last year's, she said, about half of the $20,000 match has been raised.

Willis said CU plans to host another Cardboard Nation fundraiser next year.

- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.