Box City sheds light on homelessness

New Pathways’ 4th annual Box City fundraiser Oct. 15

By Rachel Kytonen

Since 2000, New Pathways has served 381 families that included 499 adults and 690 children. Families turned away because the program was full: 316.

New Pathways serves homeless families with children by providing private sleeping accommodations, three meals a day, case management, skills training and a safe environment.

It needs the community’s help to keep its operations going.

New Pathways will host its 4th Annual Box City fundraising event on Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Isanti County Fairgrounds in Cambridge.

Each participant is asked to raise $100, and spend the night in a cardboard box that they create themselves or a tent. Up to six people can sleep in one dwelling, but each individual is asked to raise $100. There also has to be one adult per dwelling. For every $100 a participant raises, they receive a door prize ticket. For each additional $50 raised, they receive an additional door prize ticket.

“Last year was a very successful event, with 200 to 250 participants, and the money raised helped us meet our budget and keep our doors open,” said New Pathways Program Manager Mary Westlund. “We are hoping for that kind of response again this year, with a goal of raising around $20,000 to $25,000.”

Participants that register prior to Sept. 30 will receive an extra door prize ticket. The grand prize will be an iPad, with other door prizes given throughout the event. There will also be a prize given for most creative dwelling.

Participants may begin setting up their dwellings at noon, with official activities and registration beginning at 3 p.m. Registration will close at 7 p.m.

The event will conclude Sunday, Oct. 16 with a continental breakfast from 6 to 8 a.m. The final door prize will be given away at 7 a.m., and an all-faith service led by Pastor Lori from Wyoming United Methodist Church will be held from 7 to 8 a.m.

Throughout the evening, participants will be able to play games designed to educate them about homelessness. There will also be

face painting, bingo, a karaoke contest, soup kitchen provided by Perkins, entertainment by Sheltered Reality and more.

Westlund said the community is invited to stop by the event anytime from 3 p.m. to midnight to walk around and check out the dwellings and listen to the entertainment.

“I really feel this is an event about a calling to do something,” Westlund said. “I don’t think we can sit back and wait for our government and elected officials to fix the problem. We need to roll up our sleeves and do something. This event will allow our doors to stay open and help families in need. We serve families for the five-county area, and these are our friends and neighbors that need our help.”

New Pathways, based in Cambridge, serves families with children from Chisago, Kanabec, Isanti, Pine and Mille Lacs counties. It partners with 20 area churches who provide sleeping accommodations and meals to families staying in the program.

The average family size in the program is three, with an average length of stay in the program of 40 days. Ninety-two percent of families leave New Pathways to permanent housing.

Westlund also said 35 percent of families are two-parent families; 58 percent of families are single parent moms and 7 percent of families are single parent dads.

“Our program is full all-year long,” Westlund said. “We have a lot of families in need, and especially with winter coming up, we know we are going to be busier than ever. People continue to be out of work and unemployed, and facing foreclosure. We are asking our friends and neighbors to sleep uncomfortably for one night to help out their friends and neighbors in need.”

More information and registration information for Box City can be found on Facebook:

Registration materials for Box City can also be emailed or mailed by contacting Camille at 763-691-0121 ext. 3 or by emailing [email protected]

New Pathways can be reached at 763-691-0121 or online at