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An overnight host bought pizza and a guest brought bags of food donated from Safeway to share at the warming center.

POLK COUNTY — Last week, Matt Smucker, Polk County Warming Centers coordinator, posted a note on Facebook that the warming centers were in need of grab-and-go and shelf-stable foods.

“We had a great response from that, just within the first day or two,” he said.

With the latest cold snap, the warming center has been open almost continuously the last couple of weeks.

There have been eight to 11 people each night.

Smucker thinks the numbers are up because of the snow, and also because word is getting around. A trust is building between the volunteers who run warming centers and the people who use them.

Guests at St. Thomas enjoyed an impromptu viewing of “The Princess Bride” on a TV one night recently, Smucker said.

People who use the warming shelter “don’t often have a place to go and relax and enjoy that kind of unwinding,” Smucker said.

While the food requests are usually quickly filled, one request on the warming centers’ list hasn’t had much response.

“Board games, magazines, that kind of thing,” Smucker said. “There are enough numbers right now and there’s a couple of hours in the evening where a little entertainment piece might be helpful.”

So far, with the exception of the first night, guests have been adults, not families with children, he said.

They’re doing well on blankets, gloves and beanies, but could use some help doing laundry.

“We’ve been bagging it up, and it can be picked up any time,” Smucker said.

Typically, if a guest is staying more than one night, they can leave their bed made up. If not, the bedding needs to be washed.

“So far, I’ve been taking care of it myself,” Smucker said.

Anyone who wants to help with that can pick up a bag and wash it at home or a laundromat.

Another way people can lend a hand is by giving rides to people from Independence or Monmouth to Dallas, where the center is currently being hosted.

Of course, they’re always happy to add to the pool of overnight hosts, Smucker said.

And though they are now stocked on food items, fresh fruit would be welcome.

“We’re getting to the numbers now where if someone wanted to bring in a pot of soup, they could,” Smucker said.

For more information: polkwarming.weebly.com.

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