Plymouth-Canton Youth to Get a Taste of Homelessness While Raising Awareness
Members of the Geneva Presbyterian Youth Group will spend Sunday night outdoors to experience what it's like to be homeless.
While many people believe the Canadian holiday is when people get rid of their gift boxes, rumor has it that its origins are really in charity. One story says it comes from a time in Britain when members of the upper class gave boxes full of food and necessities to servants on the day after Christmas.
Reverand Bryan Smith explains that the church's youth group started the Boxing Night tradition 15 years ago, when a seminary intern who knew about the true meaning of Boxing Day introduced the idea.
Now every year on the night of Dec. 26, 10 to 20 high school and college students gather outside the church to spend the night with nothing more than boxes to block the cold, wind and snow out.
"We want to wake the kids up to the fact that this is a really brutal way to live. It's not just the cold, but also the boredom," Smith said. He said the students are not allowed to have cell phones or other electronic devices with them during that night.
"And what we really hope they take away from it is not just how they feel that night, but how it would feel if they had to do it all again tomorrow night, and the next, and the next," Smith said.
In addition to spending the night outside, the youth group hosts a clothing and toiletry drive and what they collect gets donated to Open Door Ministry at Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit.
Gently used warm clothing items such as jackets, blankets, socks, hats and mittens can be donated as well as new toiletry items.
"Think about what you would need to keep you warm outside in the cold overnight -- those are the things we want," Smith said.
"We've had enough donations virtually every year to fill a 24-foot truck," Smith said.
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.
"What really impresses me is the community," Smith said. "People will often bring in brand new stuff. It's heartening to see how generous people are."