SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Imagine working all day, and not having a home to return to at night. Imagine the scourge and sickness of addiction preventing you to use for money for housing and basic needs, and rather spending all your money on drugs or alcohol.  These lessons were a few of many that the combined youth groups of the Immaculate Conception Church and St. James The Less Church were able to experience on Friday night. 

Led by Monsignor Joe Curry, the groups banded together to spend a night living as a homeless person would, and gain some valuable life experience in what it means to be homeless, and the ways people can assist the homeless. The members, mostly teenagers, first gathered at Immaculate Conception School.  As the first step, they each had to construct their "home" for the night, just as a homeless person would. Having brought cardboard, they each built their home for the night, and tried to protect it from the elements as well as possible.

After completing their "home building", the group gathered in the cafeteria to listen to a lecture from former homeless person, known to everyone as "Paul B."  Paul explained to them the difficulties that the homeless have in trying to live in normal society, while also knowing that they are struggling to have a meal, or find a place to safely live for the night.  He further explained the wonderful things that places like the Churches United for People food pantry in Spotswood, as well as Elijah's Promise in New Brunswick do to provide for and assist the area's homeless.  He emphasized the importance of the homeless receiving little things like toiletries or small amounts of food assist in making the homeless feel even in some small way a part of society. He also spoke about efforts such as New Brunswick's Code Blue in assiting the homeless of the area to stay warm in the frigid winter months.

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Monsignor Joe explained how the groups have conducted this experience for the youth groups for the past few years, and how important it was for them to learn and understand the life lessons about not only appreciating what they have, but to also understand that many are not as fortunate, and that understanding the burdens the homeless face, and why, is as critical.

Prior to Friday's event, the churches had requested donations from area parishioners, and the youth team and some parents assisted in putting together packages for the homeless, consisting of blankets, scarves, toiletries, and food in the form of canned goods and such.  These packages will be distributed to the homeless throughout our area.  As they did their work, one of the youth group members, Arianna, stopped to talk about why she participated and what made it so important to her.  She told me that this was not the first time she had done this, and it allowed her to be reminded of how lucky and blessed she was for all she had.  She further described how important it was to recognize that not everybody was homeless by choice, and that anything we could do to help them was important.

For those of you who are as inspired by all that these youth team members did to give back, all of our towns can participate as well.  Food donations can be made to the Churches United for People Food Pantry in Spotswood, 505 Main Street in Spotswood, as well as Elijah's Promise in New Brunswick.  In addition Immaculate Conception Church will be accepting donations for the homeless as well.  These donations should NOT be cash donations.  Please provide food in the form of canned goods, and non perishables, as well as toiletries (mouthwash, toothpaste, soap, sanitizer, combs, brushes, shaving goods) .  In addition coats, blankets, hats, fleece sweaters, are always welcome during these upcoming cold  weather months.  In addition visit the website to find places to donate near you.