Community Warming Center announces call for volunteers
Working in collaboration with the Lincoln County Homelessness Task Force and the Warming Center Committee, the Merrill Area United Way is announcing that plans are well underway for the forthcoming second season of the Community Warming Center opening on Nov. 1, 2015. The Community Warming Center will operate under the umbrella of the Merrill Area United Way, a 501 C-3 tax exempt organization. United Way will serve as the fiscal agent, providing administrative, fiscal and fiduciary services to the collaborative project. Operation of the Community Warming Center will require numerous volunteers.
The Community Warming Center is located at 301 W. Main St. in the former Auto Drive through building of the old Lincoln County Bank Buildings. Although this property appears smaller than it is, the building provides about 800 square feet with a main level and lower level. The lower level includes a kitchen area, allowing the warming center to offer hot and cold beverages, as well as light snacks. Meals will not be provided. A Warming Center is not permitted to allow beds (not without zoning complications).
The majority of the slight modifications has already been done during the first season. Dee Olsen, Merrill Area United Way Executive Director, noted, “We will be cleaning, preparing, and stocking the facility on Oct. 19. This facility operated because of the wonderful volunteers who step up to cover the three different shifts each and every night of the season, including holidays.”
The Warming Center is open Nov. 1 and runs through April 1. The committee will begin work to prepare the building during September and October.
In the 2014-15 season there were approximately 40 volunteers.
“Many will be returning, but some are no longer available, so we are continually replenishing our volunteer roster,” Olsen said. “It is a requirement that we provide Volunteer Training. The Merrill Police Department has participated to aid in covering a safe environment for our clients at the Center.”
The Volunteer Training Session will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Menard Resource Center, 503 S. Center Ave., Merrill. Anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to participate in the Training Session on Oct. 28, and meet with Barb Ziemer, the Volunteer Coordinator who sets out the schedule.
During the 2014-15 season there were 90 service nights providing shelter for a total of 11 adults throughout the season. During the summer of 2015, United Way funded agencies saw an upswing of homeless people they were working with. Various community agencies are reporting homeless counts into a data base managed by Lincoln County UW-Extension Community Development Agent Art Lersch.
“These numbers are reviewed regularly and substantiate the need for having a Warming Center in the Merrill area,” Olsen concluded. “Volunteers will always be the most important need, but in addition, monetary donations and supplies are also needed.”
For further information or to help fulfill the needs of making this warming center functional, please contact the Merrill Area United Way office, 715-536-2016 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Merrill Area United Way office is staffed only part-time, but will respond as soon as possible. Financial support can be mailed to Merrill Area United Way, Community Warming Center Fund, P.O. Box 813, Merrill, WI 54452.