By Amanda Boston

Rain or shine, Family Promise of Greater Brandon will conduct its fourth annual Box Car City event to raise funds to help homeless families and generate awareness in the community. The fundraising event will take place from Friday, April 28 at 4 p.m. until Saturday, April 29 at 7 a.m. on the grounds of First Presbyterian Church of Brandon.

For one night, participants are temporarily transported into another reality—a life of a homeless person. The registration fee is $25 per person to sleep on the property in a tent, car or box. The fees benefit the Family Promise organization whose mission is “to empower homeless families to obtain sustainable housing and lasting independence by partnering with area Christian congregations and local resources.”

The event is open to the public and attracts a wide-variety of participants including entire families. The cardboard city comes alive as arriving participants create makeshift sleeping arrangements out of tents and cardboard boxes.

At dinnertime, participants are provided a simple meal and lights are out at 10 p.m. At sunrise, breakfast is served and the city dismantled. With a lack of modern amenities, the night offers plenty of time to reflect on the difficulties and uncertainties afflicting the homeless.

“The night was truly humbling. You could get a glimpse into the struggle of finding shelter and provisions for those who battle homelessness,” said Carrie Simmons, a participant from last year. Simmons is a volunteer host coordinator for Grace Community United Methodist Church in Lithia. As a host coordinator, she works as the liaison between her church and Family Promise in regard to accommodations and meals. Grace Community is one of 17 supporting churches lending space for interim lodging.

Simmons will camp out again this year to share in the daily challenges homeless families face. She said, “Taking part in this experience puts you temporarily in the shoes of the homeless. This one night reminded me that I am blessed and I can support this program. Box Car City opened my eyes to the huge opportunity we have to help families with children right here in our Brandon area.”

To find out more Box Car City or how to support Family Promise, visit, email or call 681-6170. Registration forms are available online and available on the day of the event.

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Amanda Boston is the Christian Voice Editor for the Osprey Observer. She is a graduate of Bible Training for Church Leaders (BTCL), who enjoys sharing how God is working in and through the community. Amanda resides in FishHawk with her husband and two children.