Nonie Cornell, a retired teacher, started volunteering as a nightly coordinator at The Dalles HOPE Warming Place five years ago when a friend couldn’t.
“I kind of fell into it,” she said.
Today, Cornell manages those nightly coordinators and volunteers with her husband once a week at the Warming Place, which is opened on the coldest nights of the year for those without shelter.
“It’s a need that’s near and dear to my heart and I just keep doing it,” Cornell said. “It’s very warming to me. I’ve been out shopping in The Dalles and someone will tap me on the shoulder to tell me how much they appreciated having a warm place to stay last night. They just want to come out of the cold and have a dry place to be.”
The Warming Place, located at 315 West 3rd St. in a building owned by St. Vincent de Paul, is open on any night from Nov. 15 to March 19 when the temperature drops to 30 degrees and below on a clear night and 35 and below when it’s raining or snowing.
The shelter needs two volunteers per night, 21-and-over, to stay from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. each night as well as nightly coordinators to schedule volunteers to serve. For safety reasons, the doors lock and the shelter is closed to guests at 9 p.m. Lights come back on 6 a.m.
“Some volunteers stay half the night and get the other volunteer to stay the rest of the night,” longtime volunteer coordinator Tom Somerville said.
“There’s some half shifts and some full shifts. It helps that population that really needs to be warm and mostly they’re really a good group of people.
“It’s critical because if people don’t get out of the weather, they might freeze or have some health problems.”
The Warming Place started with seven churches, who were each designated a night of the week. But Cornell noted that’s changed over the past couple of years with some congregations being much larger than others.
“We’ve tried to get rid of those lines,” she said. “It’s open to not just churches but any organization. Anybody can serve.”
At least one volunteer per night must have undergone training, which Somerville said takes an hour.
Anyone interested in volunteering, can contact Ed Elliot at 541-386-5857.
The Warming Place has room for 15 guests but usually has no more than 10 people on any given night.
The shelter is primarily for adults but guests with kids can stay at the Oregon Motor Motel.
The dormitory, which thanks to a grant has new cots this year, also serves as a dining room all year so guests will have access to a free meal.
Bread and Blessing serves breakfast Monday through Friday.
Community Meal, another local non- profit organization, provides dinner Friday through Sunday.