Taking a trip to Box City

Cortnie Cotrell, News Writer

“Box City is more than raising money for the homeless,” Maddie Pullen, UND Newman Center lead service chair, said. “Spending one night in solidarity, sleeping in a cardboard box gives a new perspective on what really matters in life.”

The first annual Box City event was held at the Newman Center on campus which began on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and went overnight to Sunday 8:00 a.m. where participants would come together and spend the night sleeping in merely just a plain cardboard box-simulating how homeless people have to spend their nights. The purpose of this event was to raise money to support the local homeless shelter, Northlands Rescue Mission and to raise awareness of the homelessness in Grand Forks. This event also gave the community a great opportunity to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Pullen had participated in a similar event previously in high school and wanted to bring it to UND’s campus. 

“My goal for Box City was to bring awareness of homelessness in Grand Forks so more people are able to help Northlands Mission,” Pullen said.

This event was free of charge for participants; however, it was encouraged that each participant fundraised a minimum of $40 in which all proceeds went to the homeless shelter. Additionally, cardboard boxes were supplied for participants; therefore, all that was needed was blankets, warm clothes and humble hearts. 

Northlands Rescue Mission’s director, Sue Shirek was the speaker at this event. She spoke on Saturday night about homelessness in the Grand Forks community, explained the process they go through when someone reaches out for help and expressed how important donors, volunteers and events like Box City make a life changing difference for those in need. 

“It is amazing how much people grow from their time at Northlands because when they come to us, they are not used to being treated with dignity and respect,” Shirek said. “It is so life-giving to be able to watch their human spirit come back.”

Preparation for this event started at the beginning of the 2019 school year. With lead service chair, Maddie Pullen and fellow service chairs, Emily Sears and Taylor Sagen working hard to make this event possible, they are excited to say that it was a success. With 15 participants disregarding their own comfort to sleep in a cardboard box, this event raised a whopping $566 for the Northlands Rescue Mission homeless shelter. 

“Being that it was our first year of having the Box City event, I was happy with the turnout,” Sagen said. “It brings me great joy to be able to raise awareness of homelessness in our community and to see that others truly care about supporting the shelter.”

Sunday morning reflections took place between participants and staff. Everyone agreed that this experience revealed the compassion for those sleeping outside. Participants explained that it was noisy from car and foot traffic passing by, which made for light sleeping. Additional to the noise, it rained on them, which led to boxes collapsing and participants getting wet-which only made for a more humbling experience.

Northlands Rescue Mission is a Christian-based emergency shelter that empowers homeless men and women to rebuild their lives. The Box City event provided direct support with help in doing just that-empowering others to rebuild their lives.