A hunt for the homeless

The nonprofit organization Ripple Effect will host a scavenger hunt this Saturday, May 18, to raise money for a telephone-answering system to service low-income people.

The group already has raised $4,000, but the planned voice-mail system will cost $25,000. Kelly Caruso, who founded Ripple Effect 12 years ago, says she originally hoped to have the system up and running this summer, but has revised the timetable until the end of this year.

The idea to provide voice mail for the "phoneless" originated in Seattle in 1991 when two employment agencies teamed up to help a homeless boiler maker find a job. Since then, the Community Voice Mail project has spread to 40 cities, helping 7,700 find employment and another 6,700 people find housing. St. Petersburg is the only Florida city currently participating in the CVM project, according to the group's website.

Caruso says Orlando's homeless community hasn't yet expressed a demand for voice-mail service primarily because very few of those who could benefit from it are aware of its potential. She sees voice mail -- which will be available at the Coalition for the Homeless, Harbor House and other social-service agencies -- as supplementing the community post-office box she currently offers to homeless people. That box has allowed participants to receive disability checks, family correspondence -- even magazines.

Registration for the scavenger hunt begins at 9 a.m. in Lake Eola Park near the Waverly apartment building. The hunt begins at 10 a.m. with prizes to be handed out at noon. Cost is $25 per person. For more information, visit the website www.rippleeffect.info.org or send an e-mail to [email protected]

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