CHERRYVILLE â€” Last year during the early fall, Cherryville youth huddled in cardboard boxes during a rainstorm. The night was cold, and some of the drenched boxes collapsed forcing their inhabitants to seek other shelter.
â€œIt rained cats and dogs last year,â€ said Ed Bowman, president of Xtreme TEAM ministry. â€œIt rained two inches last year, and we didnâ€™t lose a kid.â€
In fact, many of the 80 youth who spent that fall night in rain soaked cardboard boxes have signed up to do it again this year.
The teenagers hope to collect donations and raise money for the needy in both Lincolnton and Cherryville.
Last year they raised a grand total of $2,500 for Christian Ministries and also received a number of donations including toys, canned food and clothes. On Friday and Saturday they hope to match that success.
â€œWe felt like this time of year a lot of families are in need, and as Christians we need to help those in need,â€ said Bowman. â€œJesus taught us to use our actions more than anything else.â€
The youth will arrive at Carolina Freightâ€™s parking lot off of Hwy. 150 in Cherryville on Friday at 6 p.m. They will stay there for 24 hours with no modern amenities except for sleeping bags and no food of their own.
Organizers hope this experience makes the teenagers more sensitive to the plight of the homeless.
â€œThey live from day to day and moment to moment,â€ said Ed Shires, a member of the Xtream TEAM ministry.
The youth will have to do just the same and will depend on others for food.
No one is too concerned that the parking lot will be full of hungry teenagers, however. Last year, the community donated so much food that participants shared with a local low-income home for the elderly.
â€œThey came back in tears,â€ said Bowman. â€œIt was amazing to watch these peopleâ€™s reactions.â€
With 24 hours to kill, the group has many activities planned for the teenagers.
First comes the construction of their temporary homes. Some participants are already planning castles and churches made out of cardboard. Last year one of the makeshift homes was impressively gigantic.
â€œIt looked like a storage facility,â€ said Shires.
The teenagers will also participate in a Friday night service and a Saturday afternoon football game.
Whether the weather is full of sunshine or rain, the teenagers are committed to spending the night outdoors. Those involved hope to stay a little drier than they did last year.
â€œWeâ€™ve been praying hard, and it looks like itâ€™s going to work out,â€ said Bowman.by Sarah Grano