An aerial of the Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm corn maze. The farm is hosting a charity event to bring awareness to homelessness, with a scavenger hunt in the corn maze that has statistics and stories about homelessness. PHOTO PROVIDED/ NORTHERN LIGHTS CHRISTMAS TREE FARMS
PLEASANT HILL – Halloween is a time to enjoy being frightened, but for people who are unhoused, there is something real to fear.
To bring more awareness and raise funding for Ann's Heart, a women's shelter in Springfield, Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm is hosting a charity corn maze event from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1. The event's tagline is: ”What's much scarier than a haunted corn maze in October? Being homeless in November.”
”For my money, (homelessness) isn't being addressed yet,” Lynn Schutte, owner of the farm and board member for Ann's Heart, said. ”I mean, Springfield is trying, and Eugene, to bring awareness to homeless families, but as far as individuals – single people, especially women, and especially transgender women – it's just not happening.”
The mission of Ann's Heart is to provide safe, transitional housing for trans and cis women (those whose gender identity matches their biological sex at birth) who are unhoused. Their goal is to raise funds to purchase a house in Springfield to provide a safe place for women to figure out what they want to do with their lives and have a group of women to lean on for support.
”It's a simple concept, but a lot of money,” June Fothergill, board chair of Ann's Heart and pastor at Ebbert Memorial United Methodist Church, said.
The idea for this event came from Schutte, who said she thought it would be brilliant to juxtapose the idea of a scary corn maze against homelessness. The corn maze will work as a scavenger hunt with six checkpoints. At each checkpoint there will be statistics about homelessness to acquaint visitors with the issue, as well as stories of real-life experiences.
”I'm looking forward to educating people about homelessness and raising their awareness in a fun environment,” Schutte said. ”Having an event like this of like-minded people is always a good idea to develop awareness and camaraderie – all those good things, those warm fuzz things that occur when you're working for the good of others.”
After the corn maze, there will be a bonfire, nighttime hayride, s'mores and hot drinks available in the espresso bar.
Ann's Heart is named after a mutual friend of Fothergill and Schutte, who used to cook a large meatloaf dinner for the church's Wednesday night meal.
”We named the facility after her because she had a heart for (the) homeless and for everyone, really,” Schutte said. ”That's what got me hooked.”
She added that she also believes strongly in the work Fothergill has done, including creating the shelter. She said that the idea came about from their church dinner,s after talking with the women about their experiences and learning about what they needed.
Fothergill said they have been working for the past four years to raise the money to buy a house. They're looking to raise $250,000 for the shelter and $135,000 to provide staffing. Although there are resources available for some homeless individuals or women seeking an escape from abusive households, there just aren't enough resources, Fothergill explained.
”All of these (resources) are often full or have waiting lists,” she said. ”So this is just one more little attempt to respond.”