Volunteers Raise Awareness at Cardboard City

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The sun is setting on a cool Saturday night, as dozens of cardboard houses begin to sprout in the parking lot of Morton Hall, marking the annual Cardboard City event organized by Athens County Habitat for Humanity.

Around 6 p.m., the volunteers show up, and the city begins to form. Groups are given stacks of cardboard that range from the roomy, such as a treadmill box, to the minuscule, a pizza box.

Those involved in the event started weeks before, raising money and awareness in support of the Habitat for Humanity event.

Teams constructed their overnight abodes out of nothing but cardboard and other simple supplies, like duct tape.

The most creative makeshift homes, looked over by judges including Mayor Paul Wiehl, garnered prizes.

As part of the event, participants watched a presentation and listened to first-hand accounts of what it is like to live in poverty in the Athens area. However, afterward the participants didn't go home to their beds; they stayed in their cardboard homes, with only the clothes on their backs. Many brought music and games to stay occupied.

According to Ohio University's Habitat for Humanity Chapter President Becca Fischer, sleeping in these conditions is not easy. “[Actually going to bed] depends on how well you sleep. It’s not comfortable, so it depends on how much sleep I will get,” Fischer said.

Many of the participants say the experience is a tiring one, because the shelters make it hard to fall sleep.

Those who loose 40 winks in the cardboard city all seem to do it for one thing; to raise funds to help build homes for the homeless in Athens county, and to raise awareness on poverty in the surrounding areas. This year seems especially important after 2010 census data released says that poverty in Athens County is the highest it has been in 18 years.