On November 19, 36 teens from St Jerome Parish in Norwalk gathered for the parish’s fourth annual Night in a Box event. Night in a Box is a homeless awareness project in which TOTAL, the St. Jerome youth group, raises money and collects toiletries for the Open Door Shelter in Norwalk.
The day began with a prayer, and then everyone was off to service projects! Most of the teens raked the leaves of several elderly parishioners. Ten of them went to the Open Door Shelter, where they were met by the Executive Director of the shelter who gave the group a tour and helped them better understand the plight of the homeless in Norwalk. They then planted small Christmas trees out front to decorate for the holidays, and helped with a mailing.
After the service projects, everyone met back at the church, ate a simple meal of grilled cheese and soup and heard from Bob Genuario, a member of the board of the Open Door Shelter and a longtime St. Jerome parishioner. After a long day, the teens and adults went outside and began constructing their shelters for the night out of cardboard boxes and duct tape. After more service projects and a beautiful prayer service where they talked about “what home means to me,” teens and chaperones headed to their shelters for the night. The weather had different plans. Even though the shelters were covered with tarps and plastic, the rain that had been coming down for a few hours was too much for them. One by one the shelters collapsed. Luckily, they had the church hall to sleep in. It wasn’t all that comfortable, but the teens could stay safe, dry, warm and together. They took a moment to remember and pray for those who did not have the option of moving inside during the rain storm on this harsh night.
In the morning the youth group concluded their weekend of service with Mass and Ryan Williams, a high school senior, spoke to the congregation. Ryan said, “We went to the shelter and saw these little kids who are homeless. Last night, my little sister asked our speaker if kids in the shelter get Christmas presents. He said, ‘They do because of people like you!’ That struck a chord with me and I thought, ‘IT TAKES PEOPLE LIKE ME’. I can sleep in a box many nights if it helps someone without a home.“
(Donations can be sent to The Open Door Shelter, 4 Merritt St., South Norwalk, CT 06854. You can also visit their website at the link below to see a list of much needed items. www.opendoorshelter.org/donations/)