OPINION: Make Superior a better place by keeping homeless sleepout alive
To The Telegram: I met John Lange over 20 years ago when he first offered his services as a volunteer to the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce. John spearheaded many community help programs including, but not limited to collecting food ...
To The Telegram:
I met John Lange over 20 years ago when he first offered his services as a volunteer to the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce. John spearheaded many community help programs including, but not limited to collecting food and preparing it for the Solid Rock Mission, raising funds for the Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Club, CASDA and Harbor House.
John almost singlehandedly ran the Chamber's duck race and wild game feed fundraisers. Along the way, he volunteered his time to some of many of the boards of directors of the above-mentioned organizations. His community spirit was recognized several times when he was named "Citizen of the Year" and "Volunteer of the Year" by various groups.
I would suggest his most notorious and beneficial effort has been his annual sleepout initiated 20 years ago. John was able to solicit the support of numerous corporate sponsors who would match employee contributions. He found others willing to sleep in cardboard boxes to truly call attention to the plight of homeless individuals. John sought and gained help from numerous federal, state and local elected officials, who may probably not have otherwise supported his unique annual effort. Local business owners, managers and workers were brought into this wonderful effort. Lange even attracted a financial advisor who would fly here from Boston, after he saw a report in a national newspaper, and recognized John was the real thing.
I had the opportunity to play a very small part in a few of the 20 efforts. My most memorable is one year when it was 20+ below zero actual, and 40+ below zero with wind chill. The fire was our friend the entire night, and my clothes never lost the smell of the burn barrel after three trips through the washer.
John and Frank Boyle probably have stronger memories of the very first sleepout they did. Pranksters lit their cardboard home on fire in the early morning hours of the first effort to help less fortunate individuals. They escaped unharmed, and we still talk about the big one. Lange's work with the sleepout has generated many, many thousands of dollars in help to various charitable organizations. The greatest compliment to his efforts are other copycat events that have attempted to mimic John's original idea. Their efforts often were in warm weather and done in very comfortable atmospheres. I want to make it clear that these other events are very much appreciated by all who support the help to less fortunate individuals and families, but I do feel John was the pioneer of a very unusual and successful fundraiser.
Having said all this, I feel sad to advise the public that John has made a very difficult decision to discontinue the sleepout. In his words, "Ideas do not die because of lack of need, they die because of apathy and change. People tend to believe someone else will take care of it. So, as individuals, we do not need to act on this issue." This is a huge incorrect assumption. The time has come when those who have always "done it" will not, cannot or feel it is some other person's turn.
After sitting down with John a few days ago, I decided to write this letter. I know John appreciates all of the food, cash, toys and clothing contributed over the last 20 years. More so, he appreciates the good wishes and remarks about his outlandish idea.
I intended to make this a thank you to John Lange. However, in the short time it took to write this, I have changed my focus. Thanks to John for all he has done with the sleepout is most appropriate, but I for one recognize that my personal effort to help this worthy cause was not enough. In light of that fact, I am asking everyone and anyone to contact John at 394-5645 or me at 374-3186. Let us put together a renewed effort to continue what he started. New ideas and new resources could ensure that this vital program, started way before it was popular to do so, will continue. It could happen at a somewhat different time and in a somewhat different format.
In the meantime, donations to the causes will still be appreciated. Call John today at 394-5645, and he can advise where your donations are most needed. Florence Nightingale once asked "How many of us can say we have made a difference in this world?" John Lange has made a difference in this world. I have not yet. Please join me, so we can join John and make more differences. Thank you.