We are in the final countdown to the Autumnal Equinox, the official start of the fall season. As is so often true of September here in Mid-Missouri, the temperature this week has been in the nineties! As summer wanes, planning has begun for the winter needs of our homeless neighbors here in Sedalia. Before long our nights will be cold and those without shelter will be in peril.
A small group of citizens representing various local congregations, the Pettis County Health Center, Open Door Ministries, the Pettis County Ministerial Association, and the Salvation Army met recently to make plans for the Emergency Overnight Cold Weather Shelter, also known as Sedalia’s cold weather shelter. Last winter a handful of teams from various congregations took turns volunteering as the overnight staff at the shelter which was hosted at the Salvation Army, 1200 E. Broadway Blvd. This year the shelter team hopes to engage more congregations as well as philanthropic groups, clubs, and teams from local businesses. The more teams, the fewer nights each team will be called upon to serve!
Volunteering at the Cold Weather Shelter involves being present and awake in teams of two-three persons overnight from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Ideally a shift will be staffed by at least one woman and one man. Last winter most teams divided the night into two-six hour shifts. The work is not taxing and the shelter guests are generally appreciative of a warm place to rest.
One of the shelter team leaders put it well when he said “this is not Mayberry” and volunteers can expect to meet people who are having a tough time in life. The volunteers on my team agreed that the work was not difficult and that it was rewarding to help give the gift of warmth to our neighbors living on the margins of society.
The decision to open the shelter will be made by the program team leaders 36 hours ahead of time – at noon on the day prior. The shelter will be open whenever the weather forecast (according to the National Weather Service) calls for an air or wind-chill temperature of 15 degrees or below on a dry night, and 20 degrees or below on a wet (snowy or rainy) night. The shelter offers cots, bedding, restrooms, pre-packaged snacks, coffee, and a simple breakfast. The shelter population varied from two guests up to a dozen guests last winter. We were happy to learn that there were no deaths due to exposure in our community during the 2018-2019 winter season.
So, how can you or your organization help? For more information or to register a team of volunteers contact the Salvation Army by calling 660-826-1525 and leaving a message for the service center coordinator, Magen Hudson. The cold weather shelter plans to begin operation, based on the weather, in November and the time to gather your team is now. Please encourage your friends, co-workers and congregation to consider this life-saving ministry.