The Community Warming Center in Merrill has been cleaned up and closed down following its first season.
Dee Olsen, Executive Director of the Merrill Area United Way stated, “I feel our first season was successful in that the facility was utilized about two-thirds of the entire time.” In addition, she noted, “The real success came in the form of a strong community response through donations and volunteer support for running the Center.”
The Community Warming Center was an outgrowth of the Lincoln County Homelessness Task Force and a Community Warming Center Sub-Committee, organized under the Merrill Area United Way. Barb Ziemer, the Community Warming Center Volunteer Coordinator, was vigilant in ensuring that volunteers were on board to staff the three shifts per night.
“A true testament to the effort came to light at the Volunteer Input Session/Appreciation program held in February,” Ziemer noted, “when all the volunteers said they were happy with the way the program was run and are willing to volunteer again in season two.”
Of course, as the Warming Center looks toward its fall opening in 2015, there will be a public request for additional volunteers.
The Merrill Area United Way reported the following use numbers for the first season (The Center ran a few days over and closed April 4).
TOTAL Service Days: 90
TOTAL Guests: 11 (7 male and 4 women)
Nov. – 26 service days, guests males
Dec. – 31 service days, guests males, with 3 nights female
Jan. – 18 service days, guests males
Feb. – 5 service days, guests males, with 2 nights female
March – 7 service days, guests males, with 4 nights females
April – 3 service days, guests female
Early dialogue between the Merrill Area United Way Board and the Merrill Housing Authority Board of Directors and MHA Executive Director has resulted in an agreement to proceed with a renewal of another lease for the property located at 300 W. Main St. for the 2015-2016 season.
“The Merrill Housing Authority has been very generous toward the Warming Center and sees the long-term benefit of having a working relationship with our efforts to ensure the homeless population are supported through the Warming Center,” Olsen noted. “Their support is paramount to our efforts.”
The Merrill Area United Way, Community Warming Center Task Force will dispense with their regular meeting schedule until August when it will convene to put full throttle into season two. United Way thanks the community for all their support via financial donations, food, clothing, materials, and volunteers.
“It was appropriately named because it is the community that has sustained this project,” Olsen said.
For further information on the Warming Center, contact the United Way office at 715-536-2016 or visit www.merrillareaunitedway.org or on facebook.