WILMINGTON — About 250 people slept overnight Saturday in cardboard forts and shelters in the Clinton County courthouse parking lot, according to estimates by Clinton County Homeless Shelter officials.
In total, hundreds attended Cardboard City, the shelter’s main fundraiser, held Sept. 19, some sleeping overnight and others pitching in to help in other ways.
Sixteen-year-old Nic Hawyard, a Wilmington High School student who came with his church, the Wilmington Church of God, said he hadn’t participated in cardboard city before but wanted to make this year different.
“Some of my (teenaged) friends, they used to be homeless, and it sucks,” he said. “When you don’t have a home to go to, when you literally don’t have the luxury of going to the bathroom whenever you want to, it gives you a wake-up call because it’s really awful.”
One of Hayward’s co-congregants, Tracy Scalf, used to work for the homeless shelter and wanted to come support it, those it helps and her church at cardboard city.
“Homelessness is a big part of this county that nobody really thinks about,” she said. One of those who did think about it, however, was Tiffany Craycraft and her family Chad, Teegan and Titan Craycraft.
Tiffany Craycraft said they were made homeless during their struggle with heroin, losing their jobs and their homes before being arrested and then entering the homeless shelter.
“We thought that was our lowest low,” she said. But then, she and Chad Craycraft voluntarily surrendered custody of their children.
She credited the homeless shelter’s structured environment and her case manager for helping her and Chad Craycraft get their lives, and their children, back.
“Today we are faithful Christians,” she said. “He put us there. He’s given us sobriety. He’s given us a chance.”
Denise Stryker, director of the Clinton County Homeless Shelter, said the event has been a bulwark for her.
“It went wonderful,” Stryker said. “The new location worked really well. We had a really good turnout (and) really creative teams that did an awesome job on the canstruction competition.”
Stryker said they raised almost $11,000 and about $2,500 of canned food.
“It’s the most our food pantry’s been stocked for a long, long time,” she said.
Stryker took time to thank everyone that helped, including the AM Rotary Club, which hosted the event.
“I want to thank this amazing community, there’s so many people to thank,” Stryker said. “God has blessed this shelter, and it’s overwhelming to see the support; it really is. My heart has been so filled with joy since Saturday night.”
Others participated by building “canstructions” of movie characters with cans that were then donated to the shelter.
Those characters included Disney characters Olaf, WallE, Ariel and R2D2 and other characters, such as SpongeBob and the VeggieTales’ Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber.
Ariel, made of various canned foods, including tuna and surrounded by bottles of water, won the traveling trophy for best canstruction for MB Financial. One of MB Financial’s employees dressed as a can and sang a tune to raise money at work, too.
After the event, the characters were dismantled and donated to the shelter’s pantry. Funds for the shelter were raised through pledge amounts from participants.
During 2014, a total of 226 people resided in the local shelter, some of them children.
For those who want to donate but missed the event, they can send a check made payable to Clinton County Homeless Shelter and mail it to Cardboard City 2015, c/o 253 Linkhart Road, Wilmington, OH 45177.
Cardboard City was organized and sponsored by the Wilmington A.M. Rotary Club.
Organizers had hoped to form a human chain around the county courthouse while a drone snapped photos overhead. They didn’t have quite enough people to fully surround the courthouse, but were standing on three sides of it.
There’s always next year.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 9373822574, ext. 2510, or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.