Rural sleep out aims to help southern Douglas CountyHomelessness doesn’t end at the outskirts of Superior. Neither does the need for food, toys or a Merry Christmas. That is the message Jack Haskins plans to deliver with a “Seasons of Giving Overnight Food Drive” from Friday to Saturday.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Homelessness doesn’t end at the outskirts of Superior. Neither does the need for food, toys or a Merry Christmas. That is the message Jack Haskins plans to deliver with a “Seasons of Giving Overnight Food Drive” from Friday to Saturday.
“Times are rough right now,” said Haskins of Solon Springs. “I just wanted to help.”
He will be stoking up a bonfire and staying out in the cold for 24 hours to raise awareness and collect donations of food, money, toys, blankets and winter clothing. Although it was inspired by the annual sleep outs for the homeless put on by local chiropractor Dr. John Lange in Superior, this event is different.
For one thing, it takes place in Solon Springs, at the intersection of U.S. Highway 53 and Nyquist Road. And all the food and funds collected will be targeted to county residents through the Gordon Food Shelf. Toys will bolster the Gordon-Wascott Christmas party, a holiday program at St. Anthony’s Church in Solon Springs and Operation Rudolph in Minong. Blankets and clothing will be trucked to the Salvation Army of Superior.
“I want to do something for the southern part of Douglas County,” Haskins said.
The idea has been met with gratitude.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing for anyone out in this area to get going,” said Sue Schoelzel, owner of the Lakeview Lodge in Solon Springs. She and her husband, Dan, put on an annual puzzle run fundraiser every December to purchase toys for the county programs.
“A lot of people in the county are not able to take advantage of opportunities in Superior and Duluth,” Schoelzel said. “There are people out here who need it.”
The Gordon Food Shelf provides food to about 60 families from Gordon, Wascott, Solon Springs and Minong every month. Having a resource close to home is important, said food shelf coordinator Joan Connors.
“If they don’t have money for food, they don’t have money for gas,” she said.
Although their supplies get low once in a while, Connors said, they’ve never had to turn anyone in need of food away.
Haskins was involved in Lange’s last three sleep-outs. He was impressed by what was accomplished and wanted to do the same for county residents.
“If that doesn’t make me feel good, what does?” Lange asked with a laugh. “I think it’s great.”
After 20 years of leading the annual sleep out in Superior, Lange called it quits it in 2006. There was a sense of apathy, he said. The event had lost its energy. A year later, Tom Wondolkowski rekindled the tradition with “A Night Without a Home,” also held in Superior. It has continued for three years, taking place this year in November.
On Dec. 1, Haskins decided to launch his own version of the homeless sleep out. That didn’t give him much time to line up food, pop, pallets to burn and organizations to receive the bounty.
“It was kind of a challenge,” Haskins said.
Although he was short on time, the Solon Springs man had plenty of enthusiasm.
“He is so fired up about it,” Connors said.
Local businesses have been 100 percent supportive, Haskins said. Friends and family members have offered to spend the night in the open with him.
The Solon Springs man said an anonymous donor has offered to match 100 percent of the money raised. Even Lange plans to put in an appearance.
“I’m definitely going to be out there,” he said.
Haskins isn’t doing this for any personal gain, Lange said, but he will get something from the event.
“This is one of those things that is going to make him feel so good,” said the chiropractor.
That was one of the reasons Lange put on his own event for 20 years.
“Just that warm, fuzzy feeling,” he said. “I knew in my heart something good was coming from it.”
The success of the sleepout now rests in the hands of the public. Banners will be set up along U.S. Highway 53, Haskins said, and the glow of the bonfire will be visible to motorists. The beacon will remind them that need is universal.
As Haskins told Connor, “Douglas County doesn’t end in Superior.”