CLEMSON — A cardboard box city sprang up in Gateway Park last weekend to raise awareness for the plight of the homeless in the Upstate area.
Family Promise has hosted the event for two years now and so far, the idea seems to be taking off.
“We have groups or individuals set up a box to spend the night in,” said volunteer Kristen Goodenow. “They decorate their box and collect ‘rent’ from their friends to sponsor them for the night.”
Goodenow said the average “rent” donation was $500.
“There’s also a lot of churches who will sponsor a box,” said Stef Goodenow, Kristen’s sister.
The sisters served as the co-host coordinators for Clemson United Methodist Church for Family Promise.
“And then we were lucky enough to have all these wonderful kids from Gettys Middle School in Easley come out here,” said Stef. “They’ve been decorating the boxes.”
Participants in the event heard several speakers from the area, ate chicken noodle soup and even jammed out to a band for a while before tucking in for the night in their boxes.
“Last year I think we raised around $26,000 or $27,000,” said JoAnn Brink, case manager for Family Promise. “I don’t think Bob (Fennell) has the numbers for tonight’s event yet, but this is bigger than what last year’s turnout was.”
Bob Fennell is the chairman of the board for Family Promise.
“There’s been a lot of community involvement for our boxes,” said Fennell. “This is only our second year, but I think it’s catching on.”
Tara Ortiz and Leslie Flynn from Sunset went in on a box together.
“I called all my sisters and brothers and asked them what their favorite bible verse was, then I wrote them on the box and painted clouds,” said Ortiz. “See this one? It’s my favorite: James 3:8. Tame the tongue — TTT. I say it to my kids ‘TTT.’ Tame the tongue. It’s a hard one to follow, but it’s a good one.”
Ortiz and Flynn were good spirits and looking forward to camping out for the night.
“This is just for one night and we have sleeping bags and everything — I have no illusions that this is what it is ‘to be homeless’ but I do hope that it helps to raise awareness to this issue,” she said.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.