Boxing out poverty at Ascension Episcopal in Stillwater

From left, Avree Rich, Sara Duke, Marley Rich and Karolyn Duke peak out of boxes where they slept Nov. 2 outside Ascension Episcopal Church in Stillwater. A total of 37 youth from AScension and Christ Episcopal participated. (Submitted photo)

From left, Avree Rich, Sara Duke, Marley Rich and Karolyn Duke peak out of boxes where they slept Nov. 2 outside Ascension Episcopal Church in Stillwater. A total of 37 youth from AScension and Christ Episcopal participated. (Submitted photo)

Thirty-seven kids slept in boxes outside Ascension Episcopal Church Saturday, Nov. 2. No, they weren’t locked out. They chose to brave freezing weather to get a feel for what it’s like to be homeless.

The 37 fifth- through 12th-graders, from Christ Episcopal as well as Ascension, were taking part in a church outreach program called Boxing Out Poverty. They volunteered to sleep on the pavement with no money and no roof over their heads.

Each of the 37 came to last Saturday’s Third Biennial Boxing Out Poverty event with $50 in pledges. The money will go to a program called Avenues for Homeless Youth.

“So far, we’ve raised more than $2000,” said Mindy Boynton, Ascension youth director. And the money is “still coming in.”

Was sleeping in a box worthwhile? “The event meant a lot to me,” 10th-grader Amelia Gerrard, of Ascension, said. “It’s extremely important for kids to be exposed to problems like this early. The sooner people know there’s a problem, the sooner people will want to change it.”

Sara Duke, an Ascension 12th-grader, agreed.

“This was an incredible experience,” she said. “Having the opportunity to help people get a meal and a warm bed while I’m freezing for one night makes all the difference.”

The kids didn’t quite freeze. The temperature was 28-32 degrees with no precipitation, “perfect” in Boynton’s opinion. A fire in a nearly cage-type fireplace burned all night, but gave off little light or heat.

Sixteen adults made sure the kids were safe and well fed. A panel of experts on vulnerability of the homeless — a youth case worker, a school nurse, a family clinician, a state homeless survey specialist and others — talked to the kids about poverty before they snuggled into their boxes.

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