MOUNT VERNON — As temperatures dropped below zero Wednesday and into Thursday morning, the Salvation Army, in conjunction with the Knox County Emergency Management Agency, opened a warming station for community members in need of a warm place to spend the day.
Mark Maxwell, director of Knox County EMA, said that the warming station was intended to help all in the community, especially those without homes or shelter, and individuals who struggle to keep their homes warm.
“We’re trying to be proactive and to keep everyone in the community safe,” Maxwell said.
The warming station was open to all in the community from 9 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, and will be open until 7 p.m. today at the conclusion of Thursday’s hot meals program, held weekly at the Salvation Army, Captain Christine Moretz explained. Lt. Megan Ashcraft reported that 23 individuals utilized the warming center throughout the day Wednesday.
In addition to a warm place to relax, the Salvation Army also offered visitors snacks and warm drinks, as well as entertainment in the form of movies and board games. Power strips were available for guests wishing to charge their mobile phones and electronics. Shower facilities were also available for guests. A local restaurant’s donation of chicken sandwiches and chips Wednesday allowed guests to have a more substantial meal on a first-come, first-serve basis, Moretz said.
“The Salvation Army is always ready to meet human need without discrimination,” Moretz said. “We did not advertise any food, we just were strictly a warming center, but, of course, whatever we have and whatever donations come in, we certainly are happy to give those out. We try to plan the best we can with the resources we have to meet the need here in Knox County. … We try to meet it with whatever we have available. Today we’re very grateful with the donation that came in for lunches. We’ve had a couple inquiries about volunteering, and that’s certainly always welcome.”
The Salvation Army coordinated their hours with the Winter Sanctuary Emergency Homeless Shelter, Moretz explained, to provide a warm space for individuals to stay throughout the day and evening.
The Winter Sanctuary opens weekday evenings at 6:30 p.m. and closes the next morning at 9 a.m. according to Advocate and Operations Manager with the sanctuary, Joe Springer. Springer noted that the sanctuary offers extended weekend hours closing only from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The sanctuary will also open early Thursday at 4 p.m., Springer said.