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Volunteers needed at Sedalia Warming Shelter

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Plans are underway for opening the Sedalia Warming Shelter this winter, but many volunteers are needed to help with the project.

Warming Shelter Coordinator Chaplain Chris Traffanstedt spoke with the Democrat by phone Friday morning and said he talked with the Pettis County Health Center by Zoom Thursday. They discussed how to open safely due to COVID-19. He also noted due to the pandemic, volunteer numbers are down this season.

“Last year we had between eight to 10 teams,” he explained. “Most of them were from local churches.

“This year we had a couple of churches that said they’re probably not going to be able to put a team together,” he continued. “So, we are currently really in desperate need of volunteers … obviously if we don’t have volunteers this doesn’t happen.”

Traffanstedt said the shelter will be located in the basement of St. Patrick Catholic Church.

“That’s still set up and that’s still OK,” he noted. “We’re still at the moment considering our current guidelines from last year.”

Last year’s guidelines stated the shelter will open if the temperature is 15 degrees or below, based upon the wind chill factor. If there is precipitation, either snow or rain, in the forecast then the shelter will open at 30 degrees.

Traffanstedt said the next warming shelter meeting is planned for Dec. 3 and they will discuss the logistics of how to proceed with COVID-19 safety protocols. He added the basement of St. Patrick is rather large and there is room for people to social distance. They are also addressing the wearing of masks for both volunteers and patrons.

Usually, there are two volunteers on hand at a time who often work in four-hour shifts, which would be a team of at least six people. Traffanstedt said they will accept teams from community organizations, churches or individuals.

“One of the things we talked about is if we can’t get enough volunteers, to be open more often, then we may go with (being open on) super cold nights,” he noted. “Last year I don’t think we had any super cold, below zero, weather.

“But we did get down to a wind chill factor of five, six and seven,” he continued. “And that may be what we’re looking at if we don’t have enough volunteers.”

He added once the Mercy Rest Stop is in place the warming shelter will be easier to work with because there will be more space available.

“The Mercy Rest Stop is something Bill (Turner) is working on,” he noted. “He visited with some folks who said they’d be willing to help create a cold and warming shelter.

“So, that’s kind of in the works,” he continued. “That’s probably not going to be for at least another year. They are hoping to get it funded and have it ready for next year’s cold spell.”

Traffanstedt said this year’s warming shelter “is a go.”

“We’re just trying to figure out the logistics of how often we can be open, based upon the availability of the volunteers,” he said.

He added he is turning the reins over to Vicki Herrick, of Sedalia, who will continue to coordinate the program. Herrick, who volunteered for the position, is a member of the First Christian Church.

Those who wish to volunteer or need more information about the Sedalia Warming Shelter can call Herrick at 202-740-3237.

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