Most warming centers will serve something to eat, some will even give out clothes — but very few will actually bring you there.
A group of friends started up a warming center in Springfield in less than 12 hours because they wanted to do more than just talk about helping people.
“There is zero reason anybody needs to be out on these streets,” said Mark Houseman, one of the organizers. “I saw on Facebook a guy got frozen to the sidewalk in Chicago and I’m sitting there eating Mike Sell’s potato chips on my warm couch and I thought, ‘Man, I am a complete trash bag if I do not do something right this minute.’”
The warming center is housed in the Champion City Church at 137 E. Main St. in Springfield.
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Houseman and his friends put up signs in different locations around Springfield, trying to get the word out including gas stations, restaurants and the Springfield Soup Kitchen. If someone isn’t able to physically make it to the shelter, all they have to do is call (937) 717-8345 for a ride to the center.
They drove as far as Fairborn to pick up Matthew Yeager, who wasn’t sure what exactly he was going to do to endure the cold otherwise. But when he was brought to the center, he said it felt like a weight had been lifted off his chest.
“I’ve just been wondering trying to stay warm where I can. I’ve actually slept in abandoned houses, under bridges, wherever I could,” Yeager said. “Honestly, my last resort was to commit a crime to go to jail to stay warm.”
Organizers at the warming center said there aren’t any warrant or ID checks and no questions will be asked. Houseman said since the Facebook post went out, he and his friends have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity.
Various restaurants have donated food including Schuler’s Bakery, Frisch’s Big Boy on Bechtle Avenue, and Papa John’s.
“There’s a lot of social justice warriors, Facebook warriors but the thing is pitter-patter-get-at-‘er. You gotta put your boots on the ground and help people,” he said. “All these people are donating. People are bringing clothes. People are sending us money. It snowballed and it shows that our community is still strong.”
Another organizer, Barron ‘Pastor B’ Seelig said all they want to do is give what’s needed to people and ask for nothing in return. His one and only rule for people when they come in is, “Be nice.”
“There’s two things I’m interested in. Are you cold? Are you hungry? Because we can help with both of those,” Seelig said. “There’s no evangelical message here other than we’re going to love on you as best as we can.”
The center is open to anyone and everyone as long as the cold snap lasts.
A polar vortex caused wind chill recorded temperatures to reach minus 37 degrees in Springfield and a whopping minus 40 degrees in Mechanicsburg Wednesday.
StormCenter 7 Meteorologist Dontae Jones said the bitter cold temperatures are expected to stick around today, with high temperatures expected in the low to middle teens.
“Wind chills will range from 15 to 30 below zero in the morning. Clouds increase through the day as temperatures get into the single digits for the afternoon,” he said. “A quick, moving system will bring snow back to the region tonight into Friday morning. Road temperatures will be very cold, so the snow will stick.”
Temperatures are expected to reach into the 40s on Saturday and then rise into the 50s by Super Bowl Sunday, according to Jones.
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