BEDS FOR FREEZING NIGHTS WARMING SHELTER IN COTTAGE GROVE. Photo provided
If you are lucky enough to have a warm dry place to live, it is probably easy to forget that there are folks who have it pretty rough when the mercury drops and the rains set in.
Ten years ago, a group of community members came together – a group that included nonprofits, community organizations, Cottage Grove government officials and members from various faith communities – to address the needs of unsheltered people during extreme cold weather conditions.
The result was Beds for Freezing Nights (BFN), a 501(C)3 nonprofit whose mission statement is: ”To provide a safe, warm place to sleep for those who wish to come inside during the coldest nights of the year.”
BFN is in operation from Nov. 15 until March 31, and uses teams of volunteers to provide this humanitarian gesture. All aspects of BFN operations are governed by the Board of Directors and the appointed coordinators who answer to the board. There are five committees, each with a coordinator, as well as two other separate coordinators: one to monitor the weather and deciding on activation; one to schedule the volunteers that will be staffing the warming center each night it is opened. All volunteers are trained and have passed a background check. Many are trained in CPR and first aid as well.
BFN follows the Egan Warming center guidelines on when to activate the warming center. When the weather prediction shows that it is likely for the temperatures to be below 29 degrees, there is a 72 hour alert. That sets many things into action in preparation to opening the warming center. This is followed up by a 48 and 24 hour alert until the center actually opens. The temperature requirement for activation sometimes causes misunderstanding by both members of the community and those seeking shelter. The weather may be wet, cold and miserable but unless it is on average below 29 the entire night, BFN doesn’t activate.
This year all operations will be housed at First Presbyterian Church in Cottage Grove. While many of the volunteers are members of faith groups, there is a philosophy of non-sectarian caring in delivering the place of shelter. The volunteers seek to bridge the understanding between those sheltered and unsheltered. There is also a policy of strict confidentiality with the guests. The largest night of guests was 24 during a snowstorm, which also included travelers stranded due to poor travel conditions, but usually it hosts a smaller number of guests.
Talking with coordinators Steve Thoreson and Christine Moats at the volunteer training this Saturday, both expressed the need for more volunteers.
”We especially need couples, night owls and folks with flexible schedules”, says Moats. ”There are three shifts each night we are open, and we (are) in great need to have people to call when the weather turns nasty and some of our regular folks aren’t available.”
So if you have a warm heart, won’t you consider becoming a volunteer for this very worthy cause? Contact Christine Moats: [email protected]. Thank you, and may you sleep more contentedly in your warm bed for having helped others who are not so lucky!