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Adrian, Brewster to host Cardboard Box City

BREWSTER -- An event planned Saturday in both Adrian and Brewster will give people an opportunity to experience one night of homelessness -- one night to sleep outdoors in a cardboard box, tent or sleeping bag; one night to go without TV or radio; one night to go without the comforts of home.

More than 100 individuals, representing 22 church congregations from throughout southwest Minnesota are expected to stay overnight at the Brewster City Park and the Adrian Lower Park as part of the first-ever Cardboard Box City event in Nobles County.

Participants, many of whom volunteered through their church, were asked to collect pledges (rent), in the hopes that each would raise $100. All money collected on Saturday will be divided between Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council (SMOC) and Western Community Action (WCA), two agencies that assist the homeless in our communities.

The Cardboard Box City event is being organized by Catholic Charities, which has an office in Worthington. However, Nichole Paladie, social action coordinator for the Worthington Deanery, is quick to point out the event is ecumenical.

People will begin arriving at both parks by 4 p.m. Saturday to begin setting up. All participants are asked to bring their own cardboard box, tent or sleeping bag for the event, and carry it back out with them the next morning. People are encouraged to stay until 8 a.m. Sunday. Electronic items, food and beverages will not be allowed for the event, as they are items the homeless often must go without. Instead, a soup kitchen will serve people stale bread and water throughout the evening.

Entertainment and guest speakers will also be part of the evening in both Adrian and Brewster. The Solid Rock Assembly youth band will perform, and speakers from both SMOC and WCA will be on hand to address the gatherings. There will also be a homeless awareness facts scavenger hunt throughout the parks.

Paladie describes the event as a way "to be in solidarity with our homeless brothers and sisters ... and to experience what a homeless person would experience having not adequate shelter."

The event, hosted in cities all across the country, is in conjunction with Homeless Awareness Month in October.

"I feel so passionately about homeless issues and I witnessed an immediate need after starting my position in Catholic Charities," said Paladie. "It is so important to not only educate people on the facts of homelessness but on the agencies that help the homeless individuals."

Adrian and Brewster parks were selected for the event because they were the most central locations for the six counties that Paladie serves in her Catholic Charities role. Ministers from each of the 22 parishes that have volunteered to take part will visit the events, she added, including the Rev. Tom Jennings of Luverne, who has volunteered to stay overnight at Adrian's Cardboard Box City event.

"We have a lot of people who have pre-registered already with their children," said Paladie, adding that more people are welcome. Those interested in taking part should contact her at (507) 329-1556.

"The event is going to be rain or shine, because the homeless don't have a choice," Paladie said. "People who want to come out and see what it's like to sleep in a box all night, or in a tent, can come out."

Lori Henkels of Heron Lake and her two children, 11-year-old Katy and 9-year-old Wyatt, are planning to take part in the Cardboard Box City in Brewster on Saturday. They have already collected $365 in pledges -- mostly from Lori's co-workers at Toro in Windom, and also from family and friends.

The Henkels will sleep in snowblower boxes she received through work.

"I really want my kids to be aware there is homelessness in our area," Henkels said of her decision to take part in the event. "I want them to be aware of it and to know that they can do something about it."

In addition to seeking personal pledges, the Henkels joined with their Faithformation group through Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Heron Lake to collect donations from parishioners after services one Sunday.

Paladie said Saturday's event is based on the principle of Catholic Social Teaching's option for the poor and vulnerable.

"A basic moral test of the society is how it's most vulnerable members are fairing," she read. "Our tradition calls us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. As Christians, we are called to respond to the needs of all our sisters and brothers, but those with the greatest needs require the greatest response."

For Paladie, the principle provides an example for how she and others should live their lives.

"I think that's why I fight so hard for the poorest of the poor, because they are voiceless and they require the greatest response," she said.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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