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COVID-19 doesn't cancel sleepout for homelessness event in Cumberland County

While some aspects of the event changed, youth groups still came out to raise awareness and money for homelessness

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Youth groups in Cumberland County spent Saturday night not only learning about homelessness but raising money for organizations that help people without anywhere to go. 

They began the night building a place to stay out of cardboard boxes and trash bags. 

"At first it's exciting things you're going to spend the night sleeping in a box," said Courtney Nuss, participant. "And then I think you start to realize as we learn things just how truly difficult it would be to be in that position."

Kids and teens in Cumberland County learned all about homelessness Saturday night. There of course were fun activities to get the kids engaged but also serious conversations. 

"We also spend half the night teaching on homelessness, trying to erase the stigma around it," said Cody Sherry, High School Youth Pastor at Mechanicsburg Brethren of Christ Church. "And educating our students on what homelessness does and does not look like."

This is the 29th year for the event put on by First United Methodist and Mechaniscburg Brethren in Christ churches. While some activities may have changed this year because of COVID-19, organizers still felt it was important the event went on. 

"Especially in a season or year like this when things are crazy and you might be doing well or your neighbor might not be," said Sherry. "To teach a lesson beyond yourself and trying to help the people around you in whatever way you can."

Typically, the kids sleep outside and collect money from people driving by. That didn't happen this year because of the virus, but they're still trying to raise money. They launched a GoFundMe page with a goal of $5,000 to split between Bethesda Mission, New Hope Ministries, and Family Promise. 

"We've canceled a lot of things this year. We postponed a lot of things this year, but this is something we felt we needed to reimagine and do because these organizations are still working tirelessly," said Sherry. "People are still homeless whether COVID is happening or not."

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