Season 4 at the La Crosse Warming Center is done. March 14 was our last night of the winter season. Any season we can provide 2,614 nights of shelter to 161 different men and women is a good season. A season where no one froze to death, though, is a great season. It was a brutal winter and we thank God we were able to provide a safe, warm place for those without a home to spend the night.
We could not operate the Warming Center without the help of a legion of volunteers. Throughout the last year, over 500 volunteers provided more than 5,300 hours of volunteer help at the Warming Center making meals and helping at various fundraisers. Those at the center checked guests in, watched over them all night long and brought a hot meal to each of the 165 nights we were open. These were meals made with love that warmed the hearts and souls of the guests who stayed there. Strangers no more, the guests and volunteers were part of the Warming Center community.
We want to thank those who provided Christmas presents and gift cards to the guests. To the churches and students who held drives for us and made decorations to make the Warming Center feel more like home. We thank those who gave donations, who provided recliners, brought clothes, boots, warm hats, gloves, socks, hand and foot warmers, and blankets. To those who helped clean. To the wonderful medical personnel who provided foot care to the guests. The La Crosse area is a community of wonderful organizations, churches and people who see a need and go out of their way to help.
November 1 of this year will find us in a new Warming Center. We are so grateful to our community partners and especially to the First Baptist Church for providing a home for the Warming Center for the last four winters. We are excited and look forward to a space that will allow us to shelter more guests and one that will provide showers for their use and washers for them to clean their clothes. It will also house our Men’s Clothes Closet and our food pantry. Catholic Charities’ St. Lawrence Community Services Program will be moved there with case managers who will work with our guests to remove barriers that keep them out of permanent housing and toward self-sufficiency.
With donated tents and sleeping bags, many of our guests are camping this summer. Summer passes quickly and when November 1 comes around, they know the new Warming Center will be ready and the doors will be open. Until then, there is much work to be done and we ask you to partner with us and support this new and exciting home for the Warming Center.
I think Pope Francis was speaking to all of us when he said, “Take care of God’s creation. But above all, take care of people in need.”
Warming Center Coordinator