Sleep in a Box and Raise Funds to Help Homeless Families on April 28

Apr 19, 2017
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Sleeping inside a cardboard box most nights may not seem appealing, but it’s a reality for some in Southern Ocean County. Yes, homelessness exists right here in our backyard, and to help raise awareness about it , St. Mary’s Parish Center will be the host of Cardboard Box City on Friday, April 28, starting at 6 p.m. and ending at 7 the next morning. Proceeds benefit Family Promise of Southern Ocean County. 

For this annual event, the public is invited to spend a night sleeping in a cardboard box – or just a sleeping bag if the weather is pleasant – to help develop a better understanding of what family homelessness in Southern Ocean County truly looks like and an appreciation for the domestic comforts many take for granted. 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, Manahawkin. For more information about Cardboard Box City, as well as registration and pledge forms, visit and select “events” from the “get involved” menu.

The program of activities is as follows:

Registration begins at 6 p.m., followed by 45 minutes of building/decorating boxes, or setting up tents, or transforming vehicles into “lodging” – the same options a homeless person might have. Participants can set up inside or outside the parish building. Being mindful of the weather (the early forecast is calling for an overnight low of around 50), bring any supplies and gear to build a “comfortable” site. Check local home improvement or appliance stores for large, sturdy boxes.

Participants may 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 their shelters. Get creative, but don’t overdo the “luxury” – stay mindful that the homeless often have minimal belongings.

“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 of this event a real insight into what that’s like.”

Dinner, provided by Ken’s Kitchen, is 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. At 7 p.m., organizers will offer a welcome and make introductions. Games will be played between 7:15 and 8 p.m., and prizewinners (for best-decorated accommodations and top fundraiser) will be announced at 8 p.m.

At 8:15, 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 are 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. (The chaperone’s registration fee may be waived.) 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.

Those interested in participating are encouraged to read through the FAQ and several of the other documents in the “events” section on the Family Promise website, Questions about participation or fundraising can be answered by calling 609-994-3317 or sending an email to

— David Biggy

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