onations of time, goods needed for Army shelter

onations of time, goods needed for Army shelter

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When the “feels like” temperature in Wooster registers below 25 degrees, the community warming center at the Wooster Salvation Army opens its doors to welcome anyone in need of a warm place to spend the night.

“When temperatures dip, there is nowhere else for our friends and neighbors on the street to go to get out of the cold,” Lt. Kaitlyn E. Haddix said.

Haddix is a corps officer at the Wooster Salvation Army.

The warming center relies on volunteers and donations — both in kind and monetary — to keep its doors open. All are currently needed.

Haddix said the center is needed due to the lack of bed spaces available for those who are unsheltered.

“If you think about going from your car into the grocery store when it’s cold out, if you’re freezing just doing that, think about someone having to sleep outside,” Haddix said. “The warming center gives our friends a safe space, and they don’t have to worry, ‘Am I going to be safe? Am I going to wake up sick? Am I going to wake up?’”

For some community members, spending the night in the warming center could provide the first good night’s sleep they have had for months, Haddix said.

The only requirement for staying at the center is people be considerate and follow the center’s rules. Well-behaved dogs and cats are allowed to spend the night with their humans.

“This is the first year we’ve been able to help our furry friends,” Haddix said.

She said cold temperatures also pose a danger to animals. The center provides a carrier and a separate sleeping area for these companion animals.

The warming shelter is open at the Salvation Army from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. when the temperature indicates the need. There is food available, an area to watch movies or relax and a safe space to sleep. The center is operated with a combination of volunteers and paid staff.

Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks including acting as hosts, distributing meals, supervising and assisting guests, and helping with laundry during the day. A background check and training are required to volunteer. Couples are welcome to volunteer together.

Having an adequate number of volunteers is crucial to keeping the shelter open whenever it’s needed. Anyone interested is encouraged to reach out for more information.

Donations of warm clothing, snacks and beverages, and financial contributions to assist with paying overnight staff are needed.

Needed items include gloves, hats, socks, coats, boots and any cold-weather gear. Socks are especially crucial, Haddix said.

“You may not think about it, but you still sweat when it’s cold, and once socks get wet, you can get hypothermia in your feet,” she said. “That is very dangerous.”

Currently, the center has only a few coats on hand, and they are primarily kid sizes.

Food needed includes individually wrapped snacks and individual beverages. These are not only served at the center, but also sent with guests when they leave. Also needed are fruits, like apples, oranges and bananas, and vegetables such as individual packets of carrots.

“It doesn’t seem expensive to us to buy a bag of apples,” Haddix said. “But when you can’t carry a whole bag, it’s expensive to go and buy one apple at a gas station store. Fruits and vegetables are something we may not think of because it’s always there for us.”

Breakfast items are needed for days when there is not a hot breakfast available downtown.

To volunteer or for more information, call or email Haddix at 330-264-4704 or Kaitlyn.Haddix@USE.Salvationarmy.org.

In-kind donations may be dropped off at the Salvation Army during office hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Come into the office door, the glass door next to the garage bay, at 437 S. Market St. in Wooster. Indicate to staff that items are intended for the warming center.

For cash donations, checks may be sent to United Way of Wayne/Holmes, 215 S. Walnut St., Wooster. Note “Severe Weather Shelter” on the memo line.

“It’s critical we all work together,” Haddix said. “We are careful not to duplicate services that are offered by our amazing partners in the community. The reality is that the people we are serving are our friends and neighbors. We see them every day, even if we don’t acknowledge them.

“There are a lot of caring people in our community. I’m excited about where we can go from here.”