Sleepout raises $52K to aid local homeless

MIDDLEBURY — More than 50 people braved the elements near Middlebury’s Otter Creek falls on the night of Dec. 1 for the fifth annual “Sleep Out to end Homelessness,” an overnight camping event that raised more than $52,000 to support housing programs helping people who have no shelter.
John Graham Housing and Services officials organized the event, through which participants gathered financial pledges. It has become the organization’s top fundraiser.
Elizabeth Ready, chief financial officer for John Graham Housing, said supporters pitched more than 20 tents — each with one to six sleepers — on Marble Works commercial district property above the falls. Participants converged on the scene after having participated in a candlelight vigil on the town park and having dined on a home-cooked supper at St. Stephen’s Church.
“A cold, heavy snow fell throughout the night, sometimes nearly collapsing the tents, but more people than ever made it through until morning,” Ready wrote in an email to the Independent. “They were greeted with snow and freezing rain, a warm fire and enjoyed coffee and doughnuts and knowing they had raised more than $52,000.”
John Graham Housing and Services Co-directors Kate Schirmer-Smith and Pete Kellerman thanked all who slept out, donated, sponsored and attended the vigil. More local businesses than ever sponsored the sleepout and more young folks got involved — including large contingents from the Walden Project, Vergennes Union High School Honor Students, and the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society’s Youth Group, according to Ready.
Organizers said it was great to see young and old alike becoming involved so that no one is left outside.
It’s not too late to help. People who would like to donate can do so at johngrahamshelter.org/sleepout.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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