CAMBRIDGE — “We are a small school with a big, big heart,” is how Superintendent Tom Akers describes Cambridge schools and students.
About 40 of those students in junior high and high school are hoping for mild weather ahead when they will take part in “A Night for the Homeless” today and Sunday in an effort to raise money for the Christian Care Center in Rock Island. They will sleep in College Square Park in Cambridge in cardboard shelters they have constructed.
Their efforts also have been noticed at the state level, Akers said. “A Night for the Homeless” is being featured in October at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Chicago in their “Take a Stand.”
“It’s a permanent wing added to showcase local groups who are taking a stand to help make the world a better place and the Cambridge kids were chosen,” he said.
The students represent three leadership groups at the schools — FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), JKB (J. Kyle Braid) and LEV (Leadership, Ethics and Values).
Students, with adult chaperones, will be in the Cambridge Park from 6 p.m. today until 6 a.m. Sunday. Even though their sleeping conditions won’t be as comfortable as “home,” the young people will have electricity, restrooms and they plan to purchase plenty of snacks in advance.
The groups are under the leadership of Akers, school counselor Lisa Miller and FFA sponsor Trent Taber.
Students are seeking pledges for their efforts.
There also will be a scavenger hunt, shelter-building contest and a local worship band will perform, with 100 percent of all donations to benefit Christian Care in Rock Island.
Their goal is not only raising funds, but they also want to raise awareness of how some people live.
Cambridge High student Olivia Nuckles said, “I think it is important for us to be in such a central location as College Square Park so people can see what we are doing to create awareness about the conditions homeless people live in.”
She believes it is most important to raise awareness in her hometown. “I feel like raising awareness in such a small community helps people around here realize what it is like because I think people only see how the homeless live primarily in larger communities,” she said.
Josh Stinson, also a Cambridge High student, said: “Homeless people are not all the same and not the stereotype people that you would think. Some might look like they are doing well in public, and we need to raise public awareness for those who are not noticeable “
The project includes requiring the students to build their own cardboard shelters when they arrive at the Park.
“They will be given materials to assemble their shelters, and the shelters will be judged and donated gift cards will be given as prizes in various categories,” Miller said.
The cardboard material used in the shelters was used in making floats for the school’s recent homecoming celebration.
Akers said, “The ‘Night for the Homeless’ student and sponsor committee came up with the idea to recycle the cardboard used in the floats to give the students a more realistic understanding that the homeless need to make do with what is available to them. In past years, students brought some heavy-duty shelters, and we thought it would be good to have them relate a little more to the circumstances homeless people have to live with day-to-day.”
Christian Care has been serving the Quad-Cities for 100 years. The Rock Island Rescue Mission was founded in 1916 to provide shelter, food, clothing and spiritual nourishment to men seeking employment in the Quad-Cities.
Christian Care Center is not a United Way agency, but it does qualify for designated funds through the Contributor’s Choice Program and the Combined Federal Campaign distributed through United Way.
Support comes from funds donated by individuals, churches, organization, businesses, grants and bequests.
Christian Care is governed by a volunteer board of directors.
Akers credits his students for all of their efforts and said, “These kids are amazing. Just seven hours after the homeless sleepover, we will participate in the ’Up With Life’ event in Kewanee to raise awareness about suicide, and we have collected and donated over $600 to help sponsor that event.”