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Middlebury sleepout nets $53K for homeless

MATT SCHLEIN, SECOND from right, and students in the Walden Program at Vergennes Union High School fielded a large sleep out team for this past Saturday’s fundraiser.

MIDDLEBURY — John Graham Housing & Services’ 6th annual vigil and sleep out at the Otter Creek Falls in Middlebury on Dec. 7 was the largest and most successful version of the event in the organization’s history, with participants raising a combined total of more than $53,000 in pledges to help the homeless.
The event saw around 100 people attend a candlelit vigil at the town green to show solidarity with the homeless, and around 80 people attended a related community supper sponsored by St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Sleep out participants braved frigid temperatures sharing around 30 tent and makeshift shelters — such as cardboard boxes — in the picnic area above the Middlebury Falls. Some braved the night in vehicles in the adjacent Marble Works parking lot, according to sleep out co-organizer Elizabeth Ready, CFO of John Graham Housing & Services.
The youngest camper was Willa McClain, 8, of Lincoln, who camped with her dad, Owen McClain. Several people in their mid- to late 70s also spent the night outside. Several of this year’s participants had made all six sleep outs, and this was the fourth sleep out in a row for several Vergennes and Middlebury high school students.
“It was a beautiful, clear, and brutal night with each person experiencing the physical suffering and mental anguish that severe weather and uncertainty brings,” Ready said through an email.
“Best of all (the sleep out) built a large community in solidarity with our homeless neighbors, and a clear resolve that every person deserves first, temporary sanctuary; and then stable, safe housing as a human right,” Ready wrote. “We would like to thank the several hundred campers, fundraisers, donors, businesses and community partners that share this vision and are helping to make it happen.”
All proceeds from the sleep out will go directly to providing people with stable housing. It’s not too late to donate at johngrahamshelter.org/sleepout.

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