Dec. 25 , 2006

Father and son sleeping outside to help raise funds for Love INC

Bring them out of the cold!

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

Side by side, through the long, bitter-cold nights, father Steve Johnson and his youngest son, Patrick, sleep in their tent outside, as they pray every day for the generosity of others to bring them back inside before the year ends.

The Johnson family attends the Village Evangelical Free Church, which is one of 16 area churches making up the Love INC (In the Name of Christ) organization.

Around the Delano area, Love INC has helped assist neighbors in a variety of ways. What better time to help others than during the holiday season?

One of the many programs Love INC organizes is the “sleep out.”

Taking place the last two years, people refuse to sleep inside until enough funding is raised for Love INC to help families in need throughout the year, along with, at Christmas, its adopt-a-family and the free toy store programs.

When asked about the success of the organization, Steve said, “Basically, Love INC is where people can go to find help. Love INC does a lot of good. They helped 500 families last year. They’ve done a lot of good in the community.”

Believing in the program right from the start, Steve was eager to take part in it last year. He was the only Delano citizen to sleep outside in a tent from Nov. 4 until Dec. 24.

Father and son duo

This year, Steve’s son, Patrick, accompanies him every night out in the tent.

They began sleeping out Nov. 5. With the donations currently at $22,400, Steve and Patrick both hope to raise the figure to $50,000 before the year ends.

Regarding last year’s success, Steve said, “They did well. It was enough to start them out. They’re taking care of people and that’s the goal.”

They were trying to raise $50,000, but they ended up raising about $34,500.

With Patrick along for the journey, “I was interested to do it again this year. Sleeping out is easy for us,” Steve said.

Patrick joined Steve in sleeping out in one of the big storms last year. He felt the need to be there for his father. He ended up enjoying the experience so much, that he decided to participate this year.

With this being a very humbling and rewarding experience, both Steve and Patrick also feel that the sleep-out had brought them closer together.

“It has been bonding. It’s been great for us,” Steve said. “We’ve had a lot of fun out there. We take turns praying at night, and we’ve had a pretty good time doing it.”

Patrick also commented, “It’s a lot of fun. You just basically have to sleep outside.”

He continued, “You get the feeling of what it’s like to be a person who doesn’t have what people have now-a-days.”

It is hard for people to imagine not being able sleep in a warm bed inside a heated house.

With people taking the simple pleasures of life for granted, the Johnsons believe that everybody deserves a warm Christmas, and will continue to “beat out any storm” that comes their way.

Lucking out with little snow this time around

Lucking out this year with very little snow, last year was a different story for Steve.

“Last year, there were a couple storms. There were 50 to 60 mph winds blowing and drifting snow. I woke up a couple different times last year, where the weight of the snow had collapsed the tent on top of me,” he said.

The tent is located right outside, in the Johnson’s back yard.

“We’re using the same tent as we did last year and that tent is really holding up pretty well,” Steve said. “We have two lounge chairs and about 10 sleeping bags. If it gets down into the single digits, we have an electric heater that we bring out there.”

So far, this year’s winter has been very mild. Steve claimed that the worst night was not due to snow, but to rain.

He explained, “It was the night that it was raining so hard. I had a dream and in my dream, I had gotten struck by lightning, and right when I had the dream, there was a huge thunderbolt and a crack. I woke up and I was so scared. It took me about an hour to get back to sleep.”

He also added, “One time last year, I got hypothermia. I woke up in the middle of the night with erratic breathing. It scared me pretty bad.”

When asked about his nights out in the tent, Patrick answered, “I haven’t had a bad night really, except of course, the one night where dad snored really loud.”

It is a family contribution. Due to other activities, Patrick is not always able to sleep out. This is where the rest of the family steps in to take his place. Originally being his mother, Cindy’s idea, she has no trouble filling in for Patrick.

Steve and Cindy have four children, Shawn (28), Amanda (20), Benjamin (17), and Patrick (15).

There is still a chance to help raise the money

If anyone is interested in getting involved or contributing, Steve recommends contacting the Love INC office at (763) 972-6547, or by mail at Love INC, PO Box 143, Delano MN 55328. Donation cards can also be found on billboards around town.

“If anyone has it in their hearts to help out Love INC, they should take a look at what they feel good about giving and they should give that,” Steve ended with. “Feed your family first, by all means, but if you have extra, go ahead and donate.”

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