Spotlight on local homelessness in November

By Wendy Byerly Wood -

With cooler temperatures upon the area, the next couple of weeks include two cooperative events spotlighting homelessness and how to help The ARK battle the situation.

The annual Cardboard City fundraiser to benefit The ARK will bring community members together in a village of cardboard box “homes” for three hours at Elkin Municipal Park to raise money for the local homeless shelter.

Prior to the Nov. 21 fundraiser, the Elkin Public Library has chosen to partner with The ARK to bring a spotlight on homelessness through a program Monday which will include information on The ARK and statistics about the shelter, and stories from former residents of The ARK.

“Kasey Nowalk, the new adult programming assistant, came up with the idea,” said Martha Smith, branch librarian at the Elkin library. “She has an interest in social issues and saw the Cardboard City fundraising poster art, so she thought we could boost Cardboard City up some.”

Nowalk reached out to ARK director Cynthia Cothren and then contacted Jane Motsinger, founder of The ARK and organizer of this year’s Cardboard City, Smith said. “We just powwowed a little bit about how we could help bring the problem of homelessness on everybody’s radar screen more than it is.”

Cothren will share what The ARK is about and statistics about how many residents have called the shelter home and how the shelter serves these families, and then a couple of former residents will share their stories of The ARK.

“Kasey is going to make a few remarks about how the community could help,” Smith said. “We have a display out right now with books and memoirs written about homelessness. We thought we could provide a partnership to help support them.”

The program at the library will be from 6 to 6:45 p.m. Monday.

While the library’s program will focus on the seriousness of homelessness, Cardboard City will give community members an opportunity to fight the issue head on, and in a creative, fun way.

“We have about 32 registered, and we’ll probably have some more folks participate,” said Cothren of the volunteers who will be homeless and living in a cardboard box village in the park from 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 21.

The goal for the volunteers is to raise $500 for The ARK to “get out of their box and go home,” reads the flyer on the event.

“I’m always impressed,” Cothren said of the creative ideas for cardboard box homes the volunteers come up with. There is no requirement that volunteers decorate their boxes, but it does bring an element of fun to what could turn out to be a chilly evening, depending on the weather in two weeks.

Bobbie Couch’s box is one Cothren is looking forward to seeing this year. “There is a ladies tennis group here, and Bobbie Couch heads up that group. She’s going to be in a box that looks like a tennis court. She kills us in tennis, so we call it the Bobbie Shot to celebrate Bobbie.”

Another creative entry registered will be that of Carol McDowell, a member of the Foothills Quilters Guild. “She needs a bit more money to get out of her box, so she’s going to decorate her box with quilt blocks and sell them the night of the event to help raise her money,” Cothren said.

Cothren herself will be in a box as well, which she said will be decorated like a doghouse in honor of her dog, Muffin, who visits The ARK on occasion and is spoiled by the residents there. She is going to make mini muffin dog treats for people’s dogs and will have them available at the fundraiser.

“A lot of people during the event will text or put on Facebook, ‘I’m still in the box and need X amount to get out of the box,’ and so people will pop down to the park to make donations to help them get out of their box that evening,” said Cothren.

“It’s not too late to be in a box. If anyone would like to be in a box, we will have them here at The ARK and will bring extras to the park that night.”

Those wishing to donate can visit’s Cardboard City page to see who is volunteering to be in a box and make a Paypal payment to support someone’s efforts. Also checks can be mailed to The ARK at P.O. Box 102, Elkin, NC 28621, or dropped off at The ARK, 130 Hill St.

“It’s a great event and helps to raise much needed funds for us,” Cothren said. “The house holds up to 20 to 25 folks and as it gets colder, it maxes out. As of tomorrow, our family space will be full. Utilities, case management, everything folks use to run a household, we do here for a lot of folks.

“We appreciate the community. I’ve never seen folks be so supportive. The residents here get to see people dropping off donations, or cooking a meal for them, we make sure they see that support as they look to be sustainable on their own with child care and jobs.”

To volunteer, donate or for more information about Cardboard City, visit the website or call 336-527-1637.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

By Wendy Byerly Wood

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