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One homeless night
Fundraiser collects goods, raises student awareness of the needy
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On March 19 Piedmont Academy high school students spent the night in boxes on the school’s football field for “One Homeless Night.” The purpose of the event was to raise awareness for the plight of the homeless and to collect items for needy families in Jasper, Newton and Butts counties.

In order to participate, students had to bring one coat, one blanket or 10 canned goods as admission. Students checked in for the night immediately following the school’s soccer games.

Once students built their structures for sleeping, Matthew O’Brien, the National Honor Society Community Projects chairman, had several games planned. The first event was “French bread football.” The baguette did not last very long as the students decided eating the bread was more fun than playing football with it. Soon extra cardboard was collected to make a giant slide coming down the hill to the field. Students tried several approaches and finally decided that sliding on their backs with their heads first, made the slide the most fun. There were also some impromptu games of wiffle ball using Styrofoam from the boxes as the ball and the reinforced corners from boxes as the bat.

There was supposed to be a contest for “Best Box,” but the sponsor, said she was unable to choose a winner because the designs were so unique and each box had some winning effects. Jeremy Wood and Davis Kimball named their home “Chateau de la Box,” complete with a sign hung from some leftover string. Briana Bailey and Caitlin Tillman brought their box wrapped in plastic wrap to provide protection from the night moisture. Mary Ashlynn Dennis and Lauren Mitchell used some old vinyl tablecloths for weatherproofing. Trevor Wilson and Matt Sessions had a home complete with windows and separate bedrooms. Several gentlemen constructed a “lean to” at centerfield.

A couple of students decided to forgo a box altogether and just tough it out in sleeping bags in the open air. The first students went to bed close to midnight and nearly all were asleep by 2 a.m. There was a small group of boys that stayed up until 4 a.m.

At 7 a.m., Mrs. Arena rang the school’s bell to wake the students for clean-up and doughnuts. By 8 a.m., there was no evidence the students had been there. The cardboard was loaded by students for recycling. The honors society students cleaned up the bleachers and grounds from the soccer game and headed home for some sleep in a “real bed.” Mrs. Arena said it was a great night for the event and that the “students had fun, but also have a new appreciation for those who have to spend their lives exposed to the elements.” One student was overheard saying, “I’m glad I was only homeless for one night.”

The 19 participating students collected more than 75 cans, 13 coats and seven blankets for needy families.