Springfield Soup Kitchen cooling center on stand by for incoming heat

The Springfield Soup Kitchen opened its door as a cooling center to those in need of some relief from Wednesday’s oppressive heat — and it’s prepared to do it again as another heat wave approaches.

“I feel bad for anybody that’s out there in that heat with no water,” said volunteer, Asyah Richard.

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The cooling center was open several times last year, but Wednesday was the first day of 2019 that the soup kitchen was set up as a cooling center — handing out free water and opening their doors for anyone to come in and sit in the air conditioning to recharge.

Anyone who stopped by to cool down throughout the day was also invited to stay for the soup kitchen’s typical Wednesday night dinner later that evening.

“There’s a lot of people here in Springfield that don’t have nowhere to stay — sleeping in alleys and stuff,” Richard said. “It gives them a safe place. It’s somewhere they can come. They know they’re going to get fed, get water. Everybody cares here.”

Fred Stegner, the soup kitchen’s president, opens the kitchen as a cooling center when the heat index - that’s the ‘feels like’ temperature - outside gets close to 100 degrees.

He said when the center opens, he calls law enforcement dispatch centers to alert them.

“It’s all about trying to reduce the suffering and pain in the community,” he said.

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Heading into the peak of summer, it’s possible the center will be open more often but Stegner said the decision to open the cooling center is made on a day-by-day basis by checking the local forecasts.

Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Jesse Maag said another heat wave is on the horizon. Temperatures will stay in the upper 80s for the next several days into next week and humidity levels will climb again, which will push heat index values into the lower to middle 90s.

“I hope we’ll have better weather, but we’ll see,” Stegner said.

To check if the cooling center is open during the day, go to springfieldnewssun.com

The soup kitchen is located at 830 West Main Street in Springfield. The facility opened at its current location in 2011.

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