Warming center open for the 2016 winter season

By: 
KATIE DUNN
S-E Staff Reporter

With November’s drop in temperature, volunteers are already working steady shifts at the Colville Community Warming Center (CCWC).

The CCWC, located in the lower levels of the American Legion, is a warm, secure non-profit facility that provides a place to spend the night for people who would otherwise have no shelter. The CCWC also provides individuals and families with referrals and resources in order for them to move into secure and productive lifestyles.

The CCWC board decided to begin operations on Nov. 14. The warming center will stay open on Mondays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. through the cold season, regardless of the temperature. In addition to those days, the center will open its doors if the temperature drops below 25 degree wind chill.

The temperature turned cold quickly last year, causing the warming center to open earlier than usual. This year’s heavy rain in late October almost caused similar results, according to John Horton, Commander of the American Legion and CCWC board member.

“Even at the end of the year, that’s what we do too,” noted Horton. “We just stay open two to three nights a week so people can come in and have food, do their laundry and stay warm.”

Services

When guests enter the warming center, their first step is to check-in. All personal belongings are stored in secure bins, and any animal companions get housed in kennels. Even purses must be left behind.

Andrea Gjendem, CCWC board member and coordinator, said this is a safety precaution that prevents drugs, alcohol and weapons from becoming an issue.

The warming center consists of a large sitting room lined with couches and chairs, a kitchenette and a men’s and women’s restroom, one of which is outfitted with handicap accessibility.

Visitors are allowed to do their laundry, assisted by a volunteer, in the adjacent utility room.

Horton said they’ve had as many as 15 people inside the warming room, but it’s good for 18.

Beyond the necessities, the warming room offers a TV, movies, card games, puzzles and books for entertainment while waiting out cold nights.

“Sometimes they bring their own entertainment,” said Joey Wood, a CCWC volunteer.

Once settled inside, people can request food and clothing from the CCWC volunteers. Some items are more freely offered. A box filled with hats and gloves is located inside the sitting room for visitors to take at their discretion.

This is the third year the warming center is working to afford a shower. Until they can have one installed, Gjendem said visitors can use the new sink extensions the warming center will be getting to help with hygiene.

This year two warming center regulars moved into permanent housing because of their involvement with the center, according Horton.

“That’s kind of our primary goal,” Horton noted. “To provide a safe, warm place for these people to stay so they focus on upward mobility and they don’t have to think about finding shelter and food.”

Regulars

The warming center assists the homeless, drifters, travelers coming through town and those released from jail.

The CCWC has eight to 10 regulars, which is about 80 percent of the visitors, according to Horton.

“Every year it’s completely different,” said Horton, adding that people disappear for the summer and return in the winter.

For the most part, the warming center’s regulars are generous toward one another, sharing money and food stamps with the group as they acquire them.

“They’re a pretty tight knit group,” Horton noted. “They take care of each other.”

CCWC volunteers are vital for operating the warming center and providing this service for the community.

“Volunteers are really hard to come by,” said Gjendem, adding that the CCWC could always use more.

Consistently, the center has approximately 15 regular volunteers who can be depended on to work shifts.

Volunteers work with the warming center’s guests from the moment they step inside the building.

Volunteers are responsible for handing out bedrolls and sleeping bags for visitors to utilize for comfort, especially if they end up on the floor instead of on a couch or chair.

Gjendem explained that the bedrolls and sleeping bags are not meant for sleeping. The CCWC is a shelter, which means people can grab a meal and hang out overnight for protection from the elements, but not sleep.   

“We make it a quite hour,” said Gjendem.

Donations

Kettle Falls’ Boise Cascade Plant, through their Safety Committee, recently donated money to the warming center, according to Gjendem. The money was used to “purchase carts full of goodies to serve to the community members that come to the warming center.”

Gjendem said any leftover funds would go toward maintenance and repairs on the center.

Pastor Dave McCue of the Colville Community Church, one of the CCWC board members, registered the warming center on Walmart.com.

Anyone wishing to donate can look up the warming center and find what items they are currently in need of. This was McCue’s solution for the most effective way for the warming center to get in-kind donations.

The list can be found at https://www.walmart.com/lists/view-wish-list-items?id=61a845a5-537f-41a6..., or by searching the lists and special occasions page and entering “CCWC” as the last name. Items purchased online need to be shipped to the Colville Walmart for one of the CCWC board members to pick up.

“We can adjust the list, so whatever our major need is right now we can list it,” explained McCue.

Gjendem said items that are always needed are bottled water, paper products (toilet paper, plates, cups, paper towels), easy microwaveable meals and individually wrapped snacks. Perishable food items are also always needed.

Food products with their own container, like Cup of Noodle, are preferred over Raman. Food packaged in single servings is preferred because larger bags of food are either eaten in one sitting, or some of it goes to waste, according to Gjendem.

On Dec. 16 and 17 there will be a warming center fundraiser for monetary donations outside of Colville’s Super One Foods from 12 to 5 p.m.

To inquire about more ways to donate, or how to volunteer, call the American Legion at 684-8480 and leave a message. Or call/text (509) 690-2505.

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