Nov. 30, 2019 — The Florence Emergency Cold Weather Shelter opened its doors throughout the Thanksgiving week as old temperatures descended on the region earlier than expected.
“This is the first Thanksgiving we’ve been open, but it was a good day,” said Pastor Greg Wood, president of the program, which is held at his church, the Presbyterian Church of the Siuslaw. “I think folks were overall thankful for being there. We’ve had some tremendous volunteers from the community come out and help out, which is very much welcomed.”
A traditional turkey dinner, along with the prerequisite pumpkin pie, were served to the 23 people who utilized the shelter’s services on Thursday.
“And most of our guests also attended the dinner at the Elks Lodge, so our guests ate well on Thanksgiving. I think that was welcomed,” Wood added.
The emergency shelter, which opens when temperatures reach 32 degrees and below, or 34 degrees with rain, kept its doors open throughout most of the day on Thanksgiving.
“Instead of closing at our usual 8.m., we were open till 10 a.m., then back open at 2:30 p.m., just to let people be inside because the library was closed and a lot of things in town were not open,” Wood said.
Thanksgiving was the third night in a row the shelter opened, after unexpected freezing rain swept the region beginning Tuesday. The shelter remained open on Wednesday night, when Mo’s Seafood and Chowder provided food for the 19 guests in attendance.
“[They] provided us with a big pot of clam chowder and some rice pilaf, and their garlic mashed potatoes, which was a big hit,” Wood said. “We’re thankful for their generous donation.”
The shelter was open on Friday night as well, though “it doesn’t look like we’ll need to be open on Saturday,” Wood observed. “Then we get into the 40s for the low next week.”
The late November opening is rare for the shelter, which usually finds January and February as its busiest times. But this year has already seen the doors open five nights — four this week, and one in October.
“Last year, it was the first or second week of December that we were open. We really had a little more early cold weather this year than we’ve experienced in the past,” said Wood.
Because of the early start, the budget for the shelter has been put in flux.
“We’re really running on a shoestring right now,” Wood said, pointing out that they were already financially behind last year because of a cold snap in March.
“We were open almost half the days in March last year, which is unusual,” he said.
And there are more people this year than last. In the first months of 2018, the average was 14 people per night. This year, the average is 19.
Along with cash issues, the shelter is also running short on inflatable mattresses.
“We’ve purchased 25 air mattresses, and they have about a two-year lifespan because they get blown up, unblown and rolled back up. Seams split,” Wood said. “They’re very comfortable for our guests, but they’re not indestructible. If anybody has one that holds air, we would be happy to receive that as a donation.”
But most of all, Wood is looking for volunteers for the upcoming season.
“We are so thankful for the support of the community,” he said. “People have been bringing in cookies and other things. We are thankful, and the guests are thankful as well.”
To volunteer time or donate to the Florence Cold Weather Shelter, contact Wood at 541-991-8208.