Project Night Night aims to help homeless youth

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Project Night Night aims to help homeless youth

Project Night Night creates tote bags with items to help homeless youth.

Project Night Night creates tote bags with items to help homeless youth.

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Project Night Night creates tote bags with items to help homeless youth.

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Project Night Night creates tote bags with items to help homeless youth.

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Children suffering from homelessness often lack necessary resources in their youth. With their families striving to make ends meet, things such as blankets, stuffed animals and books are pushed to the bottom of a long list of priorities. Project Night Night, a Marquette staff-run program, provides these resources for children, passing them out to homeless shelters around Milwaukee.

“The Project Night Night tote bags that we donate to children is not just stuff; the blankets may provide a sense of security, and the stuffed animal a sense of ownership and the book offers an opportunity to connect and learn with family members,” Edi Kuhn, Alumni Memorial Union building supervisor and University Staff Senate secretary, said. 

PNN collects new blankets, stuffed animal and books. Staff members then put together tote bags which they donate to homeless shelters around Milwaukee.

“We’re doing such a small thing … but it has such a large impact on the children that are in these homeless shelters,” Patrick Correia-Harker, admissions counselor, said.

When he was first hired, he attended a fair that allowed him to get to know the organizations that faculty can be a part of, he said.

“I was instantly drawn to (PNN) because I’m a dad myself,” Correia-Harker said. “I love reading to my son … this was definitely something I could contribute to.”

PNN accepts donations, but there are very specific guidelines due to health and hygiene reasons, Kuhn said.

“There’s a lot of stuff that we can’t use, so I just try and figure out what to do with it,” Kuhn said.

The project was started by Kathy Hawkins, a now retired staff member at Marquette University. Carol Trecek, chair of the Service Committee of the University Staff Senate, helps with donations and putting together the tote bags.

“It’s a small thing we can do that can mean a lot to the children who receive the totes,” Trecek said. “It can provide comfort and a sense of security to children at a difficult time. At the same time, it also encourages literacy.”

The Marquette chapter of PNN follows the same guidelines as the national organization, which is San Francisco based.

According to the organization’s website, its mission is “to provide free Night Night Packages to homeless children from birth to pre-teen who need our childhood essentials to have a concrete and predictable source of security and increased exposure to high-quality literacy materials during this time of upheaval.”

The Marquette chapter of PNN sends out about 200 tote bags every year, Kuhn said. Stuffed animals that can’t be used are given to the Humane Society while books are given to the Next Door Foundation. The project tries to give kids new belongings, an uncommon opportunity for many homeless children.

“When children are going through a time in their life with their family where they’re in and out of homes and things like that, it’s a very stressful area and they might not always have the things that we would have in our childhood,” Kuhn said.

Although the project is mostly led by staff, Kuhn said they would like to move away from that, working with service learning to allow more collaboration. Donations are always welcome, they said.

“One thing that I love so much about this organization is the impact on children,” Correia-Harker said. “To that child, it’s such a difference and such an impact while their families are dealing with being homeless.”

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