In Freezing Temperatures, Plymouth-Canton Youth Learn Valuable Lesson
Members of the Geneva Presbyterian Youth Group spent Sunday night outdoors in below freezing temperatures to experience what it's like to be homeless.
With temperatures at 19 degrees and 11-mile-an-hour winds, most people in Plymouth and Canton were snug in their warm beds by 11 p.m. Sunday night.
Not the members of the Youth Group at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Canton.
About 20 youth group members and alumni visiting from college were spending their night in the church parking lot, huddled around drum fires and dressed in layers upon layers of clothing.
The youth were participating in annual activity the group calls "Boxing Night," in which they spend one night outside in the cold to raise awareness of homelessness and to attract donations of warm clothing for Open Door Ministry at Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit.
But the biggest lesson they take away from the event is that while they spend one night in the cold, many people face this reality day after day.
Hannah Glodich, 17, has participated in Boxing Night for three years.
"It's really cold," she said. "You feel good when it's done, but when it's 4 o'clock in the morning and you're freezing, you feel really sad."
Allison Santti, a 21-year-old student at Western Michigan University, was back in town visiting her old youth group. This was her sixth year particpating in the event.
"You really just get a glimpse at what it's like to be homeless," Santti said. "Because in the end, it's just one night for us. For other people, this is every day life."
Elizabeth Cross, a 21-year-old student at Alma College, agreed.
"We even have it good tonight compared to other people," she said. "Not everyone has a warm fire, or can wear four layers of warm clothes. We even have a church right there, that we can go into if we get desperately cold."
In order to further simulate the discomfort that comes with homelessness, the youth are prohibited from using cell phones or other electronics.
"More than the cold, it's the boredom that's the tough part," said Reverend Bryan Smith.
And then there's the silence: A two-hour "no talking" rule starts at 2 a.m., and no one may speak.
"When you're homeless, you don't always have someone with you to talk to or distract you from the cold," Cross said.
Earlier in the evening, Ben Ogden of Open Door Ministry came to talk to the group about homelessness in Detroit.
"The kids all got really quiet and were listening," said Youth Director Nancy Glodich. "Ben explained that there are 17,000 homeless people in Detroit, and that really got their attention."
Gently used warm clothing items such as jackets, blankets, socks, hats and mittens can be donated as well as new toiletry items. In years past, the group has been able to fill a 24-foot truck with the donated items.
The group has already started collecting and will continue to do so until Jan. 7. Items can be dropped off in the church between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and can also be left in a box outside the church at any time until Jan. 7.