There's nothing quite like walking a mile in someone's shoes to gain a greater appreciation for the challenges they face and develop a sense of compassion and caring.
This Friday night, a few dozen community members led by four top law enforcement officials in the valley — police chiefs Randy Harrison of East Wenatchee and Tom Robbins of Wenatchee plus Douglas County Sheriff Harvey Gjesdal and Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett — plan to spend the night in cardboard boxes in the parking lot of Encouraging Words bookstore and J. Russell and Associates on South Wenatchee Avenue.
It's part of the faith-based Lighthouse Ministry's "Night in the Box" fundraiser. The four-year-old organization, started by local orchardist Bob Rogers, has four facilities in the valley helping homeless individuals in our midst — Gospel House emergency shelter for families, Grace House (for women), Mission House (for those recovering from alcohol and drug abuse) and Discipleship House in East Wenatchee.
Operating funds for the Christian ministry come from local donations, although they have gotten some grant funding. The organization operates almost exclusively on local donations and has developed partnerships with companies who get involved in helping out at the facilities.
"A lot of people think they're not qualified or don't have the talent or money to make a difference, but that's not true," says Rogers. "You just have to be willing to stand up and get out of your comfort zone," he added. That's what it took for him to take time away from the family orchard to help the homeless. Having a supportive wife was crucial as well, he said.
The intent of the fundraiser is to raise money for the Lighthouse operations and also help others in the community see homeless in a new light. What sets the ministry apart is in how it works finding ways to help people become productive in the community, Rogers told me. Their common sense solutions, he added, works far better than other government help that he feels often breeds dependence.
So if you're out and about Friday night, stop by the cardboard box city next to Wenatchee Avenue and help these folks out financially. Or you can log onto their web site at wenatcheelighthouse.org to make a donation or find out how you might otherwise assist their efforts. You might catch a glimpse of the 6-foot-7ish Tom Robbins sleeping in a sofa box — out of his comfort zone.
If you'd like to see my interview with Rogers, please check out wenatcheeworld.com and click on videos.