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Contest sheds light on problem of homelessness

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Working on a winning design: Greenfield Banking Co. team members Amy Steigerwalt (left) and Sara Rummel practice building their house of non-perishable food items for the 'There's No Place Like Home' competition.
Working on a winning design: Greenfield Banking Co. team members Amy Steigerwalt (left) and Sara Rummel practice building their house of non-perishable food items for the 'There's No Place Like Home' competition.

GREENFIELD — Even though it’s common knowledge that there’s no place like home, for too many county residents, home is no place at all.

“Homelessness looks different in our community than in others,” said Steve Vail, executive director of Hancock Hope House, which provides short-term housing and other services to homeless families and individuals.

Rather than living on the street as is done in many metro areas, Hancock’s homeless population is generally moving from friend to friend, under the radar, until those alternatives run out, Vail said.

To raise awareness of homelessness in Hancock County, the Hancock Hope House Youth Board will sponsor its second annual “There’s No Place Like Home” house-building contest Friday and Saturday.

The contest will pit seven teams of  county businesses and civic organizations against each other as they construct small-scale habitats made of cans and other non-perishable food packages on pallets in the Greenfield Home Depot.

The contest is one of the youth board’s major fundraisers of the year, said board promotion committee chairman Tucker Swinney.

Once construction is complete on Friday, store patrons and the general public can vote to decide the best-designed house, and the builders will receive a $100 gift certificate, Swinney said.

The Hancock Hope House Youth Board is composed of area high school students and is completely self-sufficient and student-run, Tucker said.

“Most of us have been involved in charity work for a long time,” said Tucker, who is a Greenfield-Central High School junior.

Approximately 38 students from county schools are volunteering for the project, and first-year board member Sarah Pearson said she’s looking forward to the home designs.

“We can’t wait to see how the businesses build the structures,” the New Palestine High School junior said.

The same could be said of some team members who were practicing their designs Tuesday.

“We don’t know.  We don’t have any idea,” said Sara Rummel, a member of Greenfield Banking Co.’s team, who along with teammate Amy Steigerwalt, was attempting to build a garage out of boxes of mac and cheese.

Structural details aside, the primary reason for the competition is simply to help.

“I do get a lot of enjoyment out of this stuff,” Sarah Pearson said.  “Helping others really is our number-one priority.  I put it ahead of all other things.”

Though there are no height restrictions, contest rules require the “homes” to be built on four-foot-square wooden pallets with non-perishable food products.

All food items generated by the construction will be donated to the Hancock County Food Pantry and the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen after the contest.

John Watters, Home Depot store manager, said the displays will be featured in the store’s main aisle near the patio furniture section.

It will mark the second year that Home Depot has participated in the event.

“It’s a good way for us to give back to the community,” Watters said.

Construction crews will begin erecting their displays between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Feb. 22 with the winners announced at 3 p.m. on Feb. 23.

Though all the building is in good fun, Sarah said there’s a more serious issue at the foundation.

“We like to help the community,” she said.  “We see there is a real need.”

Kristy Deer of the Daily Reporter staff contributed to this story.


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