About 45 Cambridge Junior and Senior High School students braved the gusty winds
and cold temperatures of last Saturday (Oct. 12) to raise awareness for the homeless.
The young people took part in “A Night for the Homeless” and spent several hours in
cardboard shelters they constructed in College Square Park in Cambridge.

The studentsbegan assembling their shelters when they arrived at the park. Supplies for their
“cardboard homes” are provided and it is the student’s responsibility to assemble his or
her shelter. The shelters are judged and donated gift cards given as prizes in various
categories.Even though their sleeping conditions aren’t as comfortable as “home,” the young
people had electricity and restrooms and purchased plenty of snacks in advance.

The event, which includes adult chaperones, was founded by Cambridge School
Superintendent Tom Akers six years ago, and in previous years the students collected
funds through pledges for Christian Care Center in Rock Island. This year, the outreach
took on a different dimension and rather than raise funds, the students collected supplies
for Christian Care.Trenton Taber, teacher and FFA advisor, and FFA student officers at Cambridge High
School, applied and received a National FFA Living to Serve Mini Grant of $400 to
cover the cost of the “Blessing Bags.”
The bags were then filled by Cambridge students.

The canvas bags contained useful supplies for people that are experiencing
homelessness,” Taber said. “The activity is not just for FFA members, but is a
partnership with FFA FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) which is led by Chris Allen
in Cambridge; and SALT (Student Advisory Leadership Team), under the direction of
Lisa Miller.

“This community service project impacts our community a great deal,” Taber said.
“Our superintendent, Tom Akers, started this partnership six years ago as a way to give
back, and our students look forward to it every year. The Blessings Bags are a new way
of providing services to those that are most in need.”

Each of the students were asked to donate a certain number of food and personal
hygiene items and members of the community also contributed items ranging from
personal hygiene items to toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, laundry soap and dish soap
to plastic bowls, Styrofoam cups, and tablecloths.

Senior Kaiden Vinavich was among the “campers” for a second year and he said the
group tries to be innovative by changing what they do a bit each year.
“By collecting physical goods and not money shows that we are trying to increase what
we provide for the homeless,” he said. “Money would help also, but with the actual
items we are providing, we know these are things the homeless need.”

Vinavich said the night becomes a social event that involves the entire community, and
he added,” Many of the people in our community come out and visit with us.”
Logan Nodine, also a senior, said he thinks the contributions from the students and the
community “help the homeless people at Christian Care turn their lives around and helps
them get on the right path.”

“I personally have no idea what it is like to be homeless, but I think what we do each
year helps to raise awareness throughout our school and in the community about the
needs of others,” Nodine said.

Senior Lilly Kessinger has taken part in “A Night for the Homeless” in all of her four
years of high school, and she said, “Every year the impact it has had on our students has
been great…how everyone has more of an understanding of the lives of the homeless. In
the past we have given monetary donations and involved the community. This year, by
collecting donations of different items helps us and the community learn of the exact
needs of Christian Care.”

Taber said the outreach also helps the students become aware of the number of both
youth and adults in unstable housing conditions. The statistics he provided list 30
percent of the clients at Christian Care as United States veterans; 10,798 people in Illinois
are experiencing homelessness and 52, 626 students enrolled in public schools are living
in unstable housing.

Through their efforts the young people have learned more about Christian
Care in Rock Island and its mission.
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 Christian Care 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.