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April 30, 2016

Annual Shelter Sunday raises money for homeless

Bryn Rothschild-Shea/Daily Collegian

On what appeared to be a quiet Sunday morning on the University of Massachusetts, something big was quietly brewing, and the town of Amherst was about to get busy.

On Sunday, the non-profit organization, Amherst Friends for the Homeless, held its “Annual Shelter Sunday,” a yearly event to help the homeless of Amherst get back on their feet. Starting around 10 a.m., community volunteers of all ages gathered in the lobby of the Fine Arts Center to aid the homeless.

Annual Shelter Sunday, supported this year by Craig’s Doors, which operates Craig’s Place shelter, the Amherst Survival Center and an organization called “Not Bread Alone,” began back around the fall of 1989.

Jennifer Blain, the onsite coordinator for Craig’s Doors, called Shelter Sunday a one-day canvas of Amherst that, “covers the entire town.” Each group of canvassers receives a canvas envelope, a plastic bag for money and checks and brochures. They then go all around Amherst ringing doorbells to ask for donations to help the homeless population of Amherst.

Blain said that Shelter Sunday has been “incredibly successful over the last 30 years.” The event has raised upwards of $31,000 from donations.
“That’s a tremendous amount of money,” Blain said.

Jim Lumley, a director on the board of Craig’s Doors, said that one of the main missions of the organization is to get involved in bringing the homeless into “more permanent housing.” Lumley also said that even though Amherst is a small town, there are a lot of people that are still in need.

The “main thrust is for the homeless,” said Lumley, adding that there is a “top to bottom awareness, bringing home to those who have no home.”

Approximately 300 canvassers showed up to Shelter Sunday, including a large amount of college students, many of whom are involved in Greek life on campus. Michael Weisman, director of Fraternities and Sororities at UMass, is on the board of Friends for the Homeless and is in charge of many student activities. Lumley photographed each team as they headed out to their zones and each fraternity or sorority team gets a copy of their picture for publicity purposes.

Each group of canvassers, about three or four volunteers per group, is required to watch a training video before being sent out to cover their “zones.” They follow a specific formula for how to ask for donations, so as to make sure that each group is maintaining proper protocol. If a resident is not home, the canvassers leave a brochure about the organizations so that they can be aware of what is happening and how they can help.

The main sponsors of this event were “Bueno Y Sano,” who provided gift cards for each of the canvassers, and Florence Savings Bank, who is a large monetary donator.

Interested parties can still donate to the organization online through www.sheltersunday.org, or can contact any involved groups through their Facebook page, specifically “Shelter Sunday Amherst,” according to Blain.

Other towns have similar programs, but none of them have programs exactly like Amherst’s Shelter Sunday.

Lumley, in closing, thanked “those that have participated and donated to help those in need.”

Marleigh Felsenstein can be reached at mfelsenstein@umass.edu.

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