The annual Combined Community Services “Sleep Out,” scheduled for Oct. 19, seeks to raise awareness as well as funds for utility assistance as winter approaches.

John Parker, director of emergency assistance for CCS, said part of the event is to help create a sense of empathy for what some people in Kosciusko County are going through in dealing with falling temperatures.

“It’s interesting for people to sleep in the cold, and getting to see what people could be going through if it is the dead of winter and if something were shut off, what that would feel like at some level,”?Parker said.

The second component is to raise funds for utility assistance during the critical winter months.

“We help all year round with utilities,”?Parker said. ”But  this will help us with our funding to get through the winter months and help more people than we otherwise could without a fundraising event like this.

“We also use it as a platform to raise awareness that there is a need in the community. Our presence out there, our sign on our lawn saying what the event is, and hopefully people will think, ‘Oh, utility assistance. That’s something that we should be contributing to.’”

One of the keys of the assistance CCS provides is to take steps toward passing through situations, rather than having to deal with a crisis on a day-in, day-out basis, Parker said.

“One of our mottos is ‘neighbors helping neighbors.’ We’re a big believer in a hand up, not a hand out,” he said. “We’re not just paying the bill and wishing them luck. We’re walking them through budgeting, walking them through the next steps here in our building face to face to keep people from having to live with that financial pressure all the time.





“But you have to help someone up before you can help them out.”

During the recession, it was easy to see why people needed help, he said. During the current economic boom, there’s still people who need help, even if they are gainfully employed.

“The need is still there, in good times and bad,” Parker said. “There are people who we call the working poor. People have jobs, but they’re still not making enough to cover all their bills.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of being underemployed, but we also see a lot of people who have medical situations where they are choosing between medications and utilities. We don’t want people to have to choose between their medicine and heat; that’s a tough choice to make. If they’re sick, they might not be able to go to work, and that makes things worse.

“We also see people who have had transportation issues; they pay to have their cars fixed so they can go to work, but after the repair bill they’re short of money to pay the rest of their bills or put food on the table.

“We emphasize that we offer help so that people don’t have to live day to day wondering if their home is going to be cold, which likely makes a health situation worse. We want to make it so people can be financially self-sufficient.”

The event begins at 6 p.m. with a welcome, music and games. At 7 p.m. there will be a time of prayer, followed by “Beez and the Rocker” performing around 7:15 p.m.

There will be a time of prayer at the top of every hour until 11 p.m., and several music groups will perform throughout the night.

At 11 p.m., winners of the fundraising contests will be announced before quiet hours begin. All are welcome to spend the night or continue to visit.

Those spending the night are encouraged to raise funds for CCS. The organization has a goal to raise $5,000, with about 20 percent of that goal already achieved.

“We welcome anyone who wants to spend the night with us,” Parker said. “We’ll have chili and fixings, and plenty of activities going on all evening.”

For more information, to register to stay the night or to make a donation, visit ccssleepout.com.