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Kids help raise awareness about homeless
kids in box
Gary Fowler and Casey Gerry share a laugh Friday afternoon while setting up their temporary shelter at the annual Kid in a Box Fundraiser to benefit HOPE Family Shelters in Manteca. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL/ The Bulletin

The shelter might have only been temporary, but for six groups of kids Friday night at Calvary Community Church, the message that they were sending – and the money that they helped raise – was very much permanent.
In continuing a tradition that has lasted more than a decade, kids shunned the comfort of their warm beds Friday night for the annual Kid in a Box fundraiser and homelessness awareness event to benefit HOPE Family Shelters and the organization’s ongoing effort to made a difference in the lives of those who need temporary assistance.
“I think that it helps break the stigma of homelessness and humanizes the people who may face it,” said organization Program Director Michelle Whitaker. “It allows kids who get sleep in the comfort and warmth of a bed every night the chance to see what it would be like if they weren’t able to do that.”
By getting pledges and sponsors from people in the community, the participants were able to provide funding for the organization that aims to help homeless families and single mothers with children who find themselves without a place to live, as well as the ongoing homeless outreach efforts in the community and the transitional living program that helps get those who have fallen on hard times back on their feet.
Last year the event raised over $9,000 and with a new location and more space, HOPE Family Shelters Executive Director Cecily Ballungay believes that they’ll at least equal that this year once all of the pledges and donations roll in.
“It isn’t a huge amount of money, but it makes a difference in the things that we do to help the people who need help,” Ballungay said. “It really does help take the stigma away from homelessness and that’s such a hot issue in our community these days – I feel like this event shows that there’s a lot of good that’s being done in Manteca, and it shows that young people want to get involved to help make a difference.”
The event also gave those who make decisions regarding the homeless population in Manteca a chance to support the effort and show that solutions are being sought in more ways than one.
Last year Gary Singh was running for Manteca City Council when he volunteered at the event – still behind held at Raymus House — and now viewed his participation as a chance to learn more from the people who deal with the issue on the frontlines every day.
“Something like this really puts homelessness into perspective for the people who participate in it,” Singh said. “And after getting involved with this event and learning what I have from my time on the council, I do believe that something needs to be done in order to help those in our community who need the assistance.”