Warming Center offers shelter on cold night

United Way of Southern WV Director Trena Dacal, left, and Rev. Betsy Evans look over the warming station at Beckley Community United Methodist Church on Heber Street in Beckley.(Rick Barbero/The Register-Herald)

Many non-profit organizations want to wait on global warming to keep warm the most vulnerable in their communities.  Not the United Way of Southern West Virginia; they realize that we have individuals in our community that are exposed to this harsh West Virginia winter weather, and they want to do something about it right now!  That is why the United Way of Southern West Virginia has partnered up with multiple organizations in our area to provide a safe place for members of our community to get out of the elements, get warm, and get some rest.

The warming center which is being graciously hosted by Beckley Community United Methodist Church will not be an every night occurrence but will be on a severe weather basis. Specifically, the warming center will be open when the temperature with wind chill included drops below 15 degrees (and that’s Fahrenheit for any of you Europeans who think you are getting in when it’s shorts weather in West Virginia).The facility will open at 8 p.m. on these blistery nights and will stay open until 8 a.m. the next morning.  

Cots will be set up so that guests will be able to get a warm restful night’s sleep, and if that’s not enough the facility will provide hot soup, coffee, hot chocolate, as well as breakfast in the morning.  Honestly, Holiday Inn Expresses don’t offer amenities at this level.  

The facility is open to everybody so please do not think that you or somebody that you know would not qualify or be welcome at the warming center.  The facility is there to help and looks forward to the opportunity to support the members of our community.  

One of the things that the center could use at this moment is volunteers to work the shifts.  The shifts are not bad, with each volunteer only being asked to work four hours each, but are not for the faint of heart as the volunteers will be coming in in not ideal weather conditions and possibly working in the middle of the night.   Apart from the hours and the weather the volunteers will find that working the warming center is an extremely rewarding experience knowing that you were able to provide sanctuary to those with nowhere else to turn.  

On Thursday and Friday, we saw the harsh snow and cold that we have come to expect from a West Virginia winter, and with such a late start to our cold season we can expect inclement conditions well into the spring. With these forecasts ahead of us, please make anybody you know aware that help is available at the Warming Center, which is located at 217 S. Heber St. in downtown Beckley.  If you would like to volunteer or make a donation to support the warming center, you can do so by contacting the United Way of Southern West Virginia at 304-253-2111.  They can also be visited 110 Croft St., Beckley WV 25801, or you can email them at tdacal@unitedwayswv.org.

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