ALBANY -- With a snap of cool weather moving into the area, participants in the second Hope for the Hungry and Homeless Sleep Out Friday will have an opportunity to truly appreciate the plight of the hundreds in Southwest Georgians who go to bed without food or shelter each night.
The event, put on by the local Mission:Change organization, is held to raise funds and increase awareness of the homelessness issue. Participants are invited to share -- for one night -- the perils that the homeless deal with on a daily basis by sleeping in the elements with only a cardboard box for shelter.
The husband/wife team of Todd and LaDonna Urick, the founders of Mission:Change, said the idea for the sleep out grew from their desire to help others in need.
"Our family has always been givers; we love helping those less fortunate than ourselves," LaDonna Urick said. "We were trying to come up with a unique mission project, and we got this crazy idea of giving up our warm beds for a night to help others and to bring awareness to the homeless issue.
"We had no idea how the public would react, but we said if we were the only two involved, so be it."
The Uricks' first sleep out, held in January this year, attracted more than 200 people. Between 40 and 50 of them actually slept out in the elements, and the event raised more than $7,000.
"We talked with youth groups, charitable organizations and churches," Urick said. "I think the strong selling point was that this was a great opportunity for us to appreciate the things we have. Plus, in today's economy, any of us could be among the homeless."
Those willing to brave the outdoors for the night are being asked to raise $100 in donations, while non-sleepers are invited to donate food items, clothing, blankets, pillows, toiletries and cash for local charities and shelters.
Clothing, blankets and pillows donated will be given to the Salvation Army; food items will go to the FoodBank of Southwest Georgia, and cash donations will be split between Flint River Habitat for Humanity and Mission:Change.
"We plan to use our monetary donations to provide Albany with a shower trailer, a mobile unit with six shower stalls and a washer/dryer," Urick said. "We hope to set it up at least once a week outside participating food kitchens in the area, so that Albany's homeless population will have basic hygiene facilities that they wouldn't otherwise have access to.
"Our goal is to raise $16,000 for the trailer, which is built right here in Albany."
Persons interested in participating in the Hope for the Hungry and Homeless Sleep Out are asked to gather at the open field adjacent to the Albany Mall starting at 6 p.m. Friday. Donation stations will be available at the site.
Soup, coffee and hot chocolate will be available, and local bands will provide entertainment. Representatives of local charitable organizations as well as some of the area's homeless will speak during the night.
For additional information, call the Uricks at (229) 364-8119 or visit the missionchange.com Web site.