Bridge Sleepout

The Bridge past President Dick Friend and Vice President Kim Paul stand outside the organization’s sleepout booth on Desmond Street last November.

SAYRE — A Valley tradition will continue on Friday, November 29 when The Bridge of the Penn-York Valley Churches kicks off its 17th annual Sleepout.

The annual event has become a major fundraiser during Thanksgiving weekend with funds going to fund The Bridge’s ministries.

According to a press release, 25 percent of the cash donations go to Kids at Risk, which provides for the needs of area school children. Another 25 percent will go to the Valley Food Pantry with 50 percent going to The Bridge’s general fund, which provides one-time vouchers for housing, utilities or other emergency needs for all the remaining ministries such as catastrophic and interim assistance, Clothes Closet and Helping Hands.

“The Bridge does important work to assist those in crisis. Planners hope that when they raise awareness of the needs of Valley neighbors, financial support will follow,” the press release said.

Since 2002, The Bridge annual Sleepout has started the day after Thanksgiving. Organizers chose this day because it follows a day of plenty, when most people will have eaten enough, if not too much, a press release said.

The Sleepout starts on Black Friday when many people will be spending money on Christmas gifts. The event also takes advantage of the visibility and bustle of the Sayre Christmas Parade, according to organizers.

“(The parade) has been important for the Sleepout (as it allows) visitors to see our makeshift home, observe volunteers shivering in the cold air and recognize that in this time of excess, many people in our community do not have full bellies or full shopping bags and many will not go home to a warm house,” the press release stated.

This year, the Sleepout will be held in the parking lot of the Guthrie Desmond Street Practice, which is the former Newberry’s building. It starts at 3 p.m. on Nov. 29 and continues until 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Visitors to the makeshift home, can make donations, learn more about the programs of The Bridge and enjoy a cookie and cocoa, a press release said.

Organizers “seek active involvement of individuals and businesses to give generously and to participate in the Sleepout.” The Bridge encourages those donating to also commit to spending an hour in the cold in the makeshift house with Bridge representatives to show their support of the community and those who are most vulnerable, according to the press release.

The committee is also inviting musical groups to sign up for a block of time to perform at the event.

The organizers are hoping to see “more youth groups participate (as) they bring an energy that everybody loves.”

For the second straight year, Valley school districts will be joining the fight with The Bridge. Through the month of November, the Valley schools will be collecting gently used pants and new underwear for school-aged children. The clothing will be collected and distributed through The Bridge’s Kids at Risk program.

The Athens Area School District won a plaque last year for collecting thousands of socks in 2018. The plaque will stay with the winning school district each year.

The Bridge also issued a challenge to local churches as the event draws near.

“The Bridge challenges all Valley churches to support the Sleepout by financially sponsoring a one-hour block of time by sending a group of representatives to weather the cold with Bridge board members in support of those who will suffer this winter without Heat,” the press release stated. “The Bridge also challenges churches to send families, men’s groups, women’s groups, support groups, choirs, choruses or clubs. After all, when a home is cold, the whole family suffers.”

For more information, visit the website or call Kim Paul at 570-867-2628.

Pat McDonald can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 228 or Follow Managing Editor Pat McDonald on Twitter @PatMcDonaldMT.

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