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Homeless issues in Logan County

Teens experience others’ plight

[AUG. 11, 2000]  Members of San Jose Christian Church experienced what it might be like to be homeless. Twenty members of the church’s youth ministry were forced to depend on the generosity of neighbors and their own ingenuity to find food and shelter during a homeless simulation last Friday evening.

Shane Thompson, the minister of San Jose Christian Church, got the idea for this retreat after he participated in a homeless simulation as a student at Lincoln Christian College. "The experience tugged at my heart, so I decided to lead my youth group in this simulation," Thompson said. "I want kids to be aware that the issues of the homeless are something that will be very real in their futures."



Thompson told the members of his youth group to show up for a retreat with only their Bibles, one blanket and the clothes on their backs. Once they arrived they were sent into the neighborhood, with the cooperation of San Jose residents and the police department, to look for the boxes that would become their homes for the evening. Two shantytowns were then erected using the found boxes – one for female participants and the other for males. Serena Blackstock, a participant said, "Some boxes were better than others. The experience was fun, but at the same time we learned a lot from it."



After the shantytowns were completed, the groups located the canned food items that had been previously hidden in the churchyard for their evening meal. The groups’ resourcefulness determined if they would eat the canned food cold or warm. One group asked a neighbor for matches and was given kerosene to make a fire. Some expressed difficulty in finding a way to cook over an open flame. Participant Serena Blackstock said, "There was a lot of complaining, because kids couldn’t eat what they wanted to eat, and there was a lot of trading of food going on."



One of the groups was subsequently selected to go out to dinner to eat a hot meal. Jealousy ensued from those not chosen. They wanted to be in the others’ shoes, Thompson said.


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The kids were roused by the chief of police twice during the night and told to gather their belongings and move. The first time was at 1:45 a.m., when the police chief said that they were too close to the street and would need to move to the back of the church’s lot. The next time was at 4 a.m., when they were instructed to move into the church building because it was lightning. Nikki Hamilton, a simulation participant, said, "As soon as we would get settled we would have to move. We had fun until that happened. I wouldn’t want to live like that."



Thompson stated, "We want kids to appreciate what they have. This will open their eyes."

"We’ve had a lot of positive response from the congregation. We want to make people aware of this problem so they will get involved," he continued.

Saturday morning after the simulation, the youth group was treated to a mission-style breakfast of eggs, bacon and coffee. After breakfast the youth group went door to door in San Jose on a canned food drive. They collected food that will be donated to the Inner City Mission in Springfield.


San Jose, population 500, is located 20 miles northwest of Lincoln. This is the first in a series of articles on issues regarding the homeless.


[Kym C. Ammons-Scott]



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Millennium quilt will be at state fair

Local Harvest of Talents project patches together
2,000 fabric squares from around the world

[AUG. 9, 2000]  For the past year, 12 women from Lincoln Christian Church have been needling away at the millennium quilt, a project that patches together a unique blend of culture and harmony from around the world. The quilt will be auctioned off at the 17th annual Harvest of Talents, which will be at the church Oct. 28, and all proceeds will go to the International Disaster Emergency Services for World Hunger (IDES).

Donna Becke, who helped to coordinate the project, calls the quilt a "one-of-a-kind." She began her search for the international quilting squares through an Internet site called the Trading Post. She submitted a biographical letter explaining the project and sought willing participants who would send their fabric squares in exchange for squares from Lincoln. And along with the fabric, the senders also would provide a letter that would tell a little bit about themselves and their home.


[Ladies hold up their masterpiece,
"the millennium quilt."]


More than 80 people exchanged the 2,000 fabric squares that make up the king-plus size quilt. The carefully selected squares represent all 50 states and more than 25 countries, often displaying the city, state or country from which they came, as well as a design or personal notes from the senders. One square, for example, has a design of a crab to represent Maryland, while another shows off a Florida palm tree.

Once the quilters reached their goal of 2,000 squares, they began piecing together the top of the quilt. "We didn’t know how it would look," explains Donna, "but we’re pleased. It’s very pretty." The women worked each week for three hours and logged more than 240 hours, quilting 12 to18 stitches per inch by hand. But, despite the long hours and hard work, the quilters agree it is all worth it. "Every stitch we put in here is feeding someone’s child," says quilter Jane Horschem.



Feeding the hungry is the driving force behind the millennium quilt. All of the money raised during the Harvest of Talents will go directly to people in need. None of the money will be kept or used for administrative costs by IDES. "The more money [the quilt] brings, the more people it feeds," explains Donna. And, fellow quilter Darlene Berger agrees, "We dream of how many people it’s going to feed."

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[The women are working on another quilt, also intended to go on sale at the Harvest of Talents in October.]


While the project will certainly benefit those in need, it is clear that it has touched the lives of all the quilters involved—both inside and outside of Lincoln. "We feel a fellowship with everyone who sent quilting blocks," explains quilter Carolyn Hinthorn. "Fellowship is a good word," adds Doris Markwardt. "We’re just one big family."

And, the quilters from around the world who sent their fabric squares also feel the same kinship with one another. One woman from Holland explained, "The thing I love most is being in touch with other women from all over the world with the same interests." A woman from Australia wrote, "Thank you for being a part of my life and my quilt."



Not only has the quilt created a worldwide bond for many of the quilters, it also has provided an opportunity to witness to others about the purpose of the church and its Harvest of Talents. "It’s a good vehicle for getting the news out of what the church is doing," explains Doris.

And before taking to the auction block at the Harvest of Talents, that "vehicle" will stop at the Illinois State Fair, where it will be on display beginning Aug. 11. "Now more people can learn about the Harvest of Talents," says Donna.

If you want to get a local glimpse of the millennium quilt, plan to attend the Harvest of Talents on Oct. 28 at Lincoln Christian Church. Or, for more information about the Harvest of Talents, contact the church office at 217-732-7618.

[Katherine Heller]


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