MONMOUTH — The Polk County Warming Centers started a few days early last week at Monmouth Christian Church.

“Our season officially starts Nov. 1, but our funding was approved and it’s an especially cold week,” said Matt Smucker, Polk County Warming Centers coordinator. “I’d rather us err on the side of compassion.”

They had six guests on Oct. 29 and seven the next night.

Polk County Warming Centers are activated from November through March on nights where the temperature is forecast 32 degrees or colder.

Different churches fill the role of host site throughout the season and volunteers help set up, welcome guests and clean up the following day.

“This project has a special place in my heart,” said Anna Hutchins. “I’ve been here since the beginning.”

Hutchins is a volunteer overnight host.

Jennifer Hernandez volunteered to greet guests with Hutchins on Halloween night.

Hernandez is an asset and portfolio manager at Polk Community Development Corporation. She learned about the warming centers at a Service Integration Team meeting. Smucker also is part of that group.

Hernandez, who has experienced homelessness, saw this as an opportunity not only to help at the center, but to try to connect people with resources.

In addition to a warm place to sleep, Polk Warming Centers provide food, toiletries, blankets and clothing to their guests.

Smucker said their most urgent needs are decaf instant coffee, nondairy creamer packs, tissue boxes, wet wipes, and various hygiene items/toiletries.

“We still have a fairly good supply of warm clothing and blankets, but I anticipate us giving that out quickly as we head into winter,” Smucker said.

About Polk County Warming Centers

Polk County Warming Centers are open to all residents of our county who are in need of a safe and warm space for the night. Families and pets welcome.

• Intake is from 7 to 9 p.m. For the safety and courtesy of all guests, please check in during this time if possible. After hours, call 503-949-4987.

• The warming center operates from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

• Transportation can be arranged if needed.

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