Family Promise of Southern Ocean County Gears Up for Cardboard Box City

Apr 04, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy

Last April, Jeanenne Sprague provided a powerful testimony to Cardboard Box City visitors, and the message was clear: “I’m here tonight, sharing my story for Family Promise, because people need to know the truth about what Family Promise does,” she said. “Anybody can be homeless and you never think it’s going to be you. Family Promise has been a rock for me and my family.”

On Friday, April 27, Family Promise of Southern Ocean County again will host the annual fundraiser at St. Mary’s Parish Center in Manahawkin. Participants will be able to get a firsthand glimpse – albeit a small one – into the lives of homeless families through various activities, which, of course, include sleeping in a box or other makeshift shelter for the night, either inside the parish center or out in its parking lot.

“The stigma of homelessness that many people have is not the same for the families we serve,” said Family Promise of Southern Ocean County Executive Director Elizabeth Golla. “There’s a whole other side of homelessness many people don’t see. Many families that are homeless don’t go through the same processes and procedural things as somebody who is single and homeless. So we are trying to give participants a real insight into what that’s like.”

Registration begins at 5 p.m., followed by 45 minutes of building/decorating boxes, or setting up shelters, or transforming vehicles into “lodging” – the same options a homeless person might have. It’s best to utilize a sleeping bag, inflatable mattress, pillow, lounge chair, tarp or waterproofing essentials, mesh, blankets, egg-crate padding, packing materials, strong tape and scissors to construct shelters.

Dinner will be provided by Ken’s Kitchen and offered until about 7 p.m., during which time “neighbors” for the night can mingle and get to know each other. Those with dietary restrictions might consider bringing their own meals and snacks. About 7 p.m., organizers will offer a welcome and make introductions. Games will be played between 7:15 and 8:15, and prizewinners for best-decorated accommodations and top fundraiser will be announced.

About 8:15 p.m. participants will hear the personal story of one Family Promise client who has been helped by the organization. From 8:30 to 10, participants can relax, have fun, enjoy music and more activities, then wind down for a late-night movie. Lights go out at midnight. One adult chaperone (21 or older) is required per five participants 10 years old or younger, or per 10 participants ages 11 to 18.

On Saturday morning, participants will wake up between 6 and 6:30 a.m., help clean up the premises, have a light breakfast, fill out a survey and head out around 7 a.m.

Advance registration is open until April 13, but walk-ins on the day of the event will be accepted. Participants are asked to collect pledges from sponsors ($50 minimum) to donate to Family Promise of Southern Ocean County to help parents and children in need.

St. Mary’s Parish Center is located at 100 Bishop Lane. For more information about Cardboard Box City, as well as registration and pledge forms, visit Questions about participation or fundraising can be answered by calling 609-994-3317 or sending an email to

— David Biggy

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