Matt Calhoun and half a dozen others are sleeping out in the cold this weekend, staying warm by the fire, staying out of the wind as much as possible and sleeping inside simple structures made from salvaged materials – a makeshift homeless camp.

The idea is to raise awareness about those in the community who struggle and to encourage people to donate blankets, coats, gloves and hats. New or gently used, kid sizes, adult sizes – it doesn’t matter.

“If you’d wrap your child or grandchild in it, it’s good enough for us,” Calhoun said. Also, personal hygiene items are badly needed. Cash donations are used for blankets, coats and other goods.

The event is at First Christian Church in Blue Springs, 701 N.W. 15th St. One person slept out Thursday night, and the main crew of six to eight planned to be out Friday night and again tonight, wrapping up at 10 a.m. Sunday. Donations can be dropped off in the church parking lot throughout the event. There’s also a website: www.fccbsmo.org/blankets.html.

Calhoun is an elder at the church and one of the founders of the annual Freezin’ for a Reason event more than a decade ago.

“We go down once a month and feed the homeless in northeast Kansas City,” he said. Then, several years ago, there was a request for blankets, and they were able to find about 1,200. That led to this event.

“It’s not just blankets,” Calhoun stressed. Coats and other things are needed by the homeless as well as families living in other tough situations such as rent-by-the-week hotels, where the harsh cold of winter can be an added hazard.

First Christian works throughout the year to provide the blankets and other goods to metro area agencies as needed. Those sleeping out this weekend draw attention and get a good community response, Calhoun said, but there’s more to it.

“The congregation embraces this well. … The real works starts inside,” he said.