Northport High School students braved the cold Nov. 7 to raise money for the homeless.
Shelter the Homeless and Needy This Year is an annual event hosted by the school, designed to raise funds for both shelters and food pantries in the area. The event is organized by Students for 60,000, a humanitarian group based out of the high school.
The event requires every student participant to spend from dusk to dawn camping in cardboard boxes outdoors to simulate the experience of being homeless. Guest speakers from the food pantries SHANTY share stories and inform students about the efforts of their organization at the event.
Emily Cerrito, co-chair of SHANTY, said the event is more than 20 years old and is very popular among students.
“Everybody comes together and learns about the cause and, especially when the guest speakers come, you really get to learn what we’re here for,” she said. “Everyone gets the experience of being homeless, to know exactly what they’re working for.”
According to Cerrito, each participant is required to raise a minimum of $100, but many students go above and beyond that amount, with different methods of raising funds. The co-chair said about 90 students signed up for the event, so SHANTY raised at least $9,000, but she expects it will be much higher than that.
“I had a bake sale that I do every year,” she said. “I camp downtown and hand out flyers and tell everyone about the event and about the club in general.”
She said others ask relatives, stand outside businesses and have events of their own to raise the funds they need.
Isabella Allocco, a Northport High School student, said she reached out to her community for donations as well.
“I went to my friends, neighbors, coworkers and parents and told them why I was fundraising,” she said. “Every small donation eventually added up to well more than I needed.”
Brianna Lenna, another student, said she thinks the event is important because it helps classmates put themselves in the shoes of the homeless.
“When we see them on the streets we don’t actually know what they’re going through at all,” she said. “And to experience something like this in the freezing cold, it just shows us how hard their [life] is.”
Student Nicole Lenna echoed the sentiment.
“I feel badly for them,” she said. “I feel like they need to be treated like actual people.”
According to Cerrito, the group raised more than $21,000 in total last year, which they distributed to food pantries including Island Harvest and The Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry in Northport. The members of Students for 60,000 vote where they want to send the money and how much each organization then gets. Island Harvest received $7,000, and the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry got about $14,000.