Arlington honors cold-weather shelter volunteers

ARLINGTON – The number of volunteers it takes to run the Arlington community’s emergency cold-weather shelter could fill a big room.

They nearly did at Monday night’s City Council meeting, when volunteers from several churches guiding the Hands Together Emergency Cold Weather Shelter were honored with the Mayor’s Volunteer of the Month award.

City spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said the portable shelter operation had its work cut out for it this past winter, opening 51 nights with temperatures at or below freezing, and averaging 6-8 homeless a night, up from the previous winter’s average of three. At its peak, the shelter accessible from November to the end of March served 18 clients over two nights at the end of December.

In all, 100 volunteers donated 1,530 hours to operating the shelter. Four churches opened their doors on a rotating basis: Arlington United Church, Immaculate Conception Church, Smokey Point Community Church and Jake’s House Church.

The shelter provided a safe, warm bed, dinner, breakfast and usually a sack lunch to go, with volunteers working four-hour shifts throughout the night, Banfield said.

However, all the support, planning and preparation takes more than a handful of churches.

Others in the faith community and their members have been generous. Banfield recognized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Arlington Free Methodist Church, Sisco Heights Commnity Church, Falcon Ridge Community Church, Atonement Free Lutheran Church and LIFEchurch 360.

Banfield said, “Many family members have expressed their gratitude that their struggling child or grandchild has a safe place to go.”

Community members, city government, service clubs and businesses have also contributed to the shelter’s success.

“I am so grateful for all the people that have volunteered this year,” said Deena Jones, lead pastor at Arlington United Church. “We could not have done it without the help of every single person.”

Jones said while some volunteers minimize their involvement, she added “every little bit of help contributes to the whole, and our goal to make a safe place for people to be in a non-judgmental atmosphere.”

Mayor Barb Tolbert thanked the volunteers at the council meeting, standing shoulder to shoulder along the walls and filling the seats.

“Thank you for spending some time telling your story and talking about your experience, and realizing how much good we do when we all come together,” and help lift up those in need in our community, she said.