Warming shelter ready to open for the season

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MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) - As the weather turns colder, communities are preparing to welcome people who don’t have a warm place to stay overnight.

The Winter Haven Warming Shelter in Menomonie says its ready to open its doors to guests starting on Friday, but it is still in need of volunteers to help this winter.

“He was telling me about how he would walk in circles and get warm and it was really sad to hear about that,” volunteer Casey Koster said.

When the weather turns cold, many of us turn up the thermostats. But for part of the population, warmth and shelter through the winter comes thanks to the helping hands of volunteers.

“It’s really nice to help people and to talk to people about real issues,” Koster said.

Koster says she started volunteering at the warming center in St. Joseph’s Church in Menomonie last year and the experience made a big impact.

“The guests are very grateful that we are here every time I’ve been here they have told me that they appreciated that I was here and hoped to see me again,” Koster added.

“When people are homeless they try to stay under the wires so it’s hard for them to socialize. We become their community that introduces them to the larger community,” shelter director Heidi Hooten said.

The shelter coordinator says since Winter Haven opened three years ago, they've seen more people coming through the doors and the need is growing.

“This time for the first time I’ve had people calling me this week asking when we are opening and if they are eligible,” Hooten said.

Winter Haven says they welcome everybody over the age of 18 to stay the night. In addition to a warm place to stay, staff also provides guests with snacks and someone to talk to.

“I think it’s important to have some kind of personal connection and impact on someone's life and I’m sure they'll have an impact on my life as well,” volunteer Kelly Tuszynski said.

The warming shelter says it is looking for community volunteers to help out especially during the holiday season when many of their volunteers from UW-Stout are on winter break.

If you’d like to volunteer at Winter Haven this winter you can call Heidi Hooten at (715) 235-2975. More information on the shelter can also be found on their Facebook page. We have a link to that below.

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