One Winter Night in downtown Champaign on Friday

CHAMPAIGN — About 30 folks are set to shiver in the cold as they sleep outside in boxes Friday night, but donations to the annual fund-raiser event called One Winter night are running on the low side.

So far, pledges raised by the "box dwellers" — plus donations made by private and business sponsors — have brought in about $18,000 toward a hoped-for goal of $60,000, says Melany Jackson, executive director of C-U at Home, One Winter Night's sponsoring organization.

Plus, there's going to be about $1,000 in expenses for the event between now and Friday, Jackson said.

One Winter Night is set to run from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Saturday in the heart of downtown Champaign.

Pastors, public officials and other volunteers will spend the night in boxes around the Champaign City Building and along Neil Street one block to the north, Jackson said.

Traditionally, the box-dwellers volunteer to spend a night outside in the cold to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless and the money raised has supported C-U at Home's former mission to provide housing for people living in the streets.

The awareness part hasn't changed. But the organization recently switched its main focus to opening a recovery home for addicts who have completed a rehabilitation program and a daytime drop-in center for the homeless. Money raised at this year's One Winter Night will support those new initiatives, Jackson said.

She said she doubts donations are running a bit low this year due to the new work her organization is taking on.

Since the change was made public, she said, "I've had so much positive response, a landslide of positive response."

More than 100 people have signed up to volunteer to work at One Winter Night, Jackson said, and by the end of the week, she predicted, the volunteer count will reach 150.

Medical staff and security will also be on hand, she said.

Each box dweller has been asked to raise $1,000 in donations, Jackson said.

At the event, there will be a drive-through available for people to make donations on Chester Street by the City Building and two walk-up donation tables, Jackson said.

Donations can also be made online at http://www.cuathome.us

This event is all about raising awareness along with fund-raising, so visitors are most welcome, she said.

"We want people to come mingle with the box dwellers," Jackson said.

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