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Experiencing plight of Mantecas homeless
Jacob Johnson plays inside the Boys & Girls Keystone Clubs E Tank during the Kids in the Box fundraiser at the Raymus House on Union Road. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Emmanuel Torres came up with an elaborate design for Friday’s annual Kids in the Box fundraiser at the Raymus House.

He’s a member of the Keystone Club, which is a leadership development group of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manteca / Lathrop involving young people ages 14 through 18.

Torres, 16, constructed a replica of a tank by using a couple of large cardboard boxes.

“We call it our tribute to the men and women of the armed services,” said Mark McCool, site director of the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Added Torres: “We’re looking forward to spending the night in it.”

The Kids in the Box fundraiser is an event that promotes awareness, according to Dave Thompson, who is the executive director of the HOPE Family Shelter.

“We’re trying really hard to break the mindset of homeless people,” he said.

Some at the family shelter are those who fell on hard times in trying to make ends meet financially in a tough economy.

Thompson was especially pleased to see that this year’s turnout was double that of a year ago. All told, about 15 youngsters from the likes of Southside Christian Church, Journey Church and, of course, the Boys and Girls Clubs participated in the Kids in the Box event.

“They’ll spend the night here sleeping in the box while staff will sleep in tents,” said Donna Jo Reed, director of client services.

The boxes and tents were once again spread outdoors along the Raymus House’s acre-and-a-half grounds.

Thompson noted that the Kids in the Box event provided an opportunity for people in the community to interact with people in the shelter.

They’re not people living on the system or battling substance abuse.

“They’re just everyday people,” said Thompson, who has spent the past dozen years at the HOPE Family Shelter.

In addition, non-profit groups and volunteers stepped up by donating their time, service and food.

The event typically raises $3,000.

Thompson said that may not sound like a lot, but the overall budget for the three shelters HOPE operates is $156,000.

HOPE has almost a 75 percent success rate. That means that three-quarters of the people they have helped since opening 20 years ago - or about 3,000 of the 4,000 that includes children - have ended up being able to stay in rental housing.

More than 60 percent of the $156,000 needed to run the shelters each year comes from the private sector with the rest through federal and state grants. Included in that private sector support are monthly contributions from 16 churches.

“If it wasn’t for the community’s support the HOPE shelters wouldn’t be here for families when they need help,” Thompson said earlier this month.