Scout helps the homeless

By Paula Evans Neuman

Steven Gunther, 16, of Allen Park has earned Eagle Scout status, Scouting’s highest honor. For his Eagle project, Gunther collected and donated more than 100 sleeping bags to help homeless people served by ChristNet stay warm and comfortable.

ChristNet is a partnership of more than 50 churches that offer rotating emergency shelter for men, women and children without homes. The ministry’s “guests” are offered a warm place to stay overnight and three meals a day for up to 30 days without charge.

“After I helped with ChristNet at my church, I saw how much the homeless would appreciate a project like this,” he said. “I knew that the number of homeless people had gone up this year due to the economic conditions. “I talked with Mrs. (Debra) Petri at ChristNet, and she said it would be great to be able to hand someone a sleeping bag to try to stay warm.”

Christnet - Scout

Allen Park Eagle Scout Steven Gunther, 16, and ChristNet Executive Director Debra Petri unload sleeping bags donated by the Scout, a member of Troop 1051 out of Allen Park Presbyterian Church.

One of the most challenging aspects of the project, he said, was trying to spread the word that he needed sleeping bags. “The first thing was passing out fliers in the community,” Gunther said.

Asadoorian Family Printing in Allen Park gave him a good deal on the fliers to help out, and then he and other members of Boy Scout Troop 1051 and friends distributed 4,000 fliers around the Allen Park area. “Allen Park Presbyterian Church and Transfiguration Lutheran Church also advertised in their papers,” Gunther said.

The volunteers went around and picked up the donated sleeping bags, which were left on residents’ front porches to make the collection easier. “Then, everyone came to my house, and we sorted according to new, used, adult, child, etc.,” Gunther said.

And then another challenge arose. The used sleeping bags the Scouts had collected had to be cleaned. “I originally planned to go to the Laundromat, but Alexander's Dry Cleaning in Allen Park offered to clean the bags for about the same price, so I took all the bags to them,” Gunther said.

Once the bags were clean and ready to distribute, the Eagle Scout put them in plastic bags, labeled them and delivered them to ChristNet in Taylor.

Gunther, a junior at Melvindale High School, has been involved in Scouting since the first grade. He’s particularly enjoyed canoe trips and earning his horsemanship merit badge, he said. “There is not another organization out there where you can experience all the things you get to experience in Scouting,” Gunther said.  In the future he plans to major in architecture at either Lawrence Technological University or the University of Michigan.

ChristNet is a seasonal rotating overnight shelter for men, women, and children when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. As a shared ministry of more than fifty Protestant and Catholic churches in the Downriver and western Wayne County suburbs, the goal of ChristNet is to insure that no one has to be left out in the cold. Guests receive a warm place to stay overnight and three meals, and they may stay for up to thirty days. There is no charge.

© Copyright 2009 The News Herald, Southgate, MI.
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