A Surprising Homeless Box Story
Written by Don Ecklund
As Ian Mulvany and I headed east on Jefferson Street, on Saturday at 6:30 in the evening, on
our way to the 2022 October 8 th Fifth Street Renaissance Homeless Camp Fundraiser at the
Springfield Art Association; God blessed us with a gorgeous view of the huge full moon rising
in the distance. Exactly twelve hours later, on Sunday at 6:30 in the morning, on our way
home on Madison Street; we were once again blessed with a stunning view of the full moon,
this time setting in the western sky.
Between these two stunning astrological wonders, there is a surprising story regarding our
experience at this fundraiser, where we slept in two separate boxes from 10:00 pm to 6:20
am. Upon arrival, we noticed a large number of impressive creative cardboard structures put
together as part of a competition with prizes for the best three boxes as judged by two
attendees. Some contestants had obviously spent many hours creating their amazing entries,
although many could not actually be used for sleeping.
Since we brought no boxes with us, we inquired about how to get one for each of us.
Fortunately, there was one nice cardboard structure available with a door where I was able to
sleep. We were given a second smaller unfolded box which we opened and taped where Ian
slept. We had no plans to enter the contest and were pleased they provided us with these
boxes for us to sleep in throughout the night.
Earlier, on my way out the door to pick up Ian, I decided to check for a can of paint and some
brushes in case we wanted to write a few things on our box homes and ended up with red
paint because I had a small full can of that color. We began by painting First Presbyterian
Church on the side of the fancier box and then a few slogans including “Black Lives Matter,”
“My Body, My Choice,” and “God Loves You” on the top and “God’s Doors Are Open To All”
on another side. Someone suggested we paint the door on the structure red since that is the
color of our church doors and Ian proceeded to do so.
After spending about fifteen minutes preparing and painting this box, Ian and I drifted over to
the food table where they provided brown beans, delicious pulled pork sandwiches, coffee,
and hot chocolate. Both of us brought food that went untouched due to the unexpected tasty
food they provided.
I was able to reconnect with Bob Croteau, an old friend from a Men’s Group we belonged to
many years ago. As well as catching up on our personal lives, we talked about solar panels
and creating an energy team at our church. Bob was the energy efficiency spokesperson at
CWLP until he recently retired. He mentioned how much he liked and respected Pastor
Susan saying they had spoken recently about our church solar project including him giving
Michelle Knox at Wind Solar a thumbs up.
Then something surprising and strange happen when one of the box competition judges,
named Keith, began vigorously shaking our hands and telling us how much he loved the box
we painted. The second judge followed Keith pouring on his praise. They were both black
and had been homeless in the past. They said they liked the fact that our boxes were similar
to the ones on the street, as well as the red messages we painted on the one including “Black
Lives Matter.” Low and behold, a little later we received first prize for our boxes and were
handed an envelope with five crisp $100 bills in it.
Ian and I realized we did not deserve the prize money, having not even made the box and
only spent a short time painting it; so we decided to return the $500 prize money to the Fifth
Street Renaissance in support of their many worthy endeavors, allowing this prize money to
be added to the original $750 donation by our church Mission and Outreach Committee. After
sleeping uncomfortably in a box with temperatures that got as low as 39 degrees, we also
thanked God that we have never been homeless.