Fifty seven local teens recently took part in a 13-hour project to help raise awareness and money for the homeless. The teens slept outside for the evening on cardboard boxes in an effort to feel what it would be like to be homeless. Those who participated are members of Helping Other People Everywhere (HOPE), a youth service group at St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes.
The idea for the project, called HOPE in a Box, began back in November of 2010 when some members of HOPE traveled to Philadelphia to serve the residents of the St. Francis Inn, a soup kitchen located in the very depressed neighborhood of Kensington. Upon their return, the teens wanted to help raise awareness of the plight of the homeless and to also raise funds to be donated to help the local needy.
The event, now in its second year, took place in the parking lot of St. Mary’s parish and began April 20 at 6 p.m. and concluded on April 21 at 7 a.m. During the evening hours, the teens listened to witness talks from four residents of Straight and Narrow, a catholic charities organization specializing in the rehabilitation of victims of drug and alcohol abuse. They shared what it was like to live on the streets and to be homeless. After the talks, students were treated to soup and hot tea, and at midnight, volunteers delivered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
HOPE is composed of youth in grades 6 through 12. It focuses on serving and ministering to the community at large, spreading beyond the borders of St. Mary’s Parish. The planning of projects and events come largely from the youth and is supported by adult volunteers. Some of HOPE’s upcoming projects include coordinating with Bridges Outreach Inc. out of Summit to bring donated toiletries and handmade sandwiches to Irvington and distribute to the hungry and needy. HOPE also has a yearly collection of school supplies for local families and is very active with Catholic Charities agency, Department of Persons with Disabilities.
If you would like to learn how you can get involved or donate please call 973-835-5594 ext. 117.