(l to r) Linda Dressler (visiting REALTOR®), Carol Meinhart Hickey, Natalie Gross, Bill Utnage and Trey Coffey.

As part of the Champaign County Association of REALTORS®’ efforts to raise awareness and funds for the homeless in the Champaign County area, six CCAR members raised $10,594.19 by participating in the One Winter Night program in downtown Champaign Feb. 2.

Temperatures may have plummeted to 9 degrees Fahrenheit that night but the local REALTORS® were warmed by the donations they garnered for the Champaign-based community organization C-U at Home, which provides shelter and assistance to the homeless.

“This is just the start of what we hope will be a long-term relationship with C-U at Home and aiding the homeless in our community,” said Max McComb, CCAR president.

(l to r) Bill Utnage, Trey Coffey and Natalie Gross.

This is the seventh time C-U at Home has organized the program, and about 250 volunteers participated this year, raising more than $148,000.

Volunteers with the One Winter Night program spent 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. outdoors in a cardboard refrigerator box. Each box dweller was also asked to help raise at least $1,000 as part of their experience.

REALTORS® who spent the night outside included: Trey Coffey, Carol Meinhart Hickey, Eric Porter, Davonne Porter, Natalie Gross, Bill Utnage and affiliate member Butch Dalhaus. REALTOR® Amy Pellum was also a volunteer at the event.

CCAR and the CCAR YPN Network also made contributions to the One Winter Night program.

Carol Meinhart Hickey

“It does enlighten you seeing the need in our community,” said Meinhart Hickey, who participated for the fifth time. “There are homeless people out there who don’t have anywhere to go and this program is a way to help them. It is hard to imagine yourself in that cold bitter air all night every night. That is a harsh reality. Anything we can do to create housing and shelter for these individuals in our community is a step in the right direction.”

Utnage was a top fundraiser among REALTORS® for One Winter Night and this was the first year he slept outdoors as a volunteer.

“It was a very humbling experience. I am laying there in the middle of the night in a cardboard box knowing in just a few hours I will be going home to a hot shower and meal and all other luxuries I am blessed with in my home. At the same time, I am thinking the people on the streets are repeating (it over and over, like in the movie) ‘Groundhog Day.’

“They are worrying about shelter each and every night, and where they are getting their next meals,” said Utnage. “For this program, it is not just about raising money . . . it provides an experience to step into someone else’s shoes and see from their perspective what life is like on the streets. As REALTORS®, our job is assisting individuals get into homes and help them fulfill the American dream of owning a home. CU at Home has a goal of ‘how do we get people off the street and into permanent housing?’”

Donations can still be made at: http://new.cuathome.us/one-winter-night/ until Feb. 15.

Throughout the year, C-U at Home runs the Phoenix Daytime Drop-In Center, transitional housing, street outreach, transportation ministry and other education and advocacy programs.