A walk through the heart of the Merrimack College campus in North Andover last week would have quickly dispelled any notion that Gen Z college students are indifferent to the social problems of the world around them.
That walk would have found the 50 brothers of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity spending the cold, rainy nights sleeping inside cardboard boxes as their way of bringing greater awareness of those who live on the streets.
“We build these mock homeless shelters out of wood pallets, cardboard and tarps to bring awareness and help motivate people to donate to Lazarus House,” said sophomore Connor Nickerson, who was wrapped in a sleeping bag as he sat outside these makeshift shelters.
TKE has teamed up with Lazarus House in this unusual fundraiser for more than 10 years. In addition to the money raised, they also seek donations of winter clothing.
“We are doing it for the greater good,” said Nickerson, adding that every member of the fraternity spends at least one night sleeping in the boxes. “If we are putting ourselves through a little discomfort to help people who have a lot of discomfort, people recognize it and are willing to donate.”
The students intentionally do not ask for food, which provides an impetus for other organizations on campus to get involved.
“You see all the homeless people panhandling on the streets, but you kind of walk by. It’s in the middle of campus, so you have to walk by it all week long,” said senior Joshua Cayer.
One sorority delivered pizza, the college dining service sent out hot chocolate, and other fraternities brought food.
“It brings a realism to it. It is an issue that needs to be addressed. Having the boxes up kind of drives people, ‘What is this, what is happening?’” Cayer said.
In addition to spending the night, one member of the fraternity was always scheduled to sit outside the shelters during the day, holding a can seeking donations.
Last year, TKE raised $3,500 for Lazarus House. The goal this year was $5,000.