By Christopher Oak Reinier
The WCCS Emergency Winter Shelter in Guerneville is open 120 nights for four months from December through March. This year the shelter is providing warmth and bedding for an average of fifty individuals from 5 pm to 7 am each night. And crews of community volunteers cook and serve a warm meal each night for the shelter’s visitors.
It takes thirty crews of volunteers every month, three to seven people on each crew, to provide dinners for the folk staying at the shelter each of those 120 nights. A crew usually commits to serving a meal one night a month for four months. Each crew buys the food it serves with its own money. The crews usually prepare the food in the Shelter’s kitchen, then serve the dinner to the evening’s visitors.
It is a remarkable thing to see the generosity of the West County community coming together to provide meals for those less fortunate among us. The good cheer the crews bring to the Shelter is heartwarming. Any visit to the Shelter would affirm that this is not a crowd that chooses to be so dependent. This is not a group of happy campers. It is very apparent that the dinner is appreciated and makes a difference.
When the Emergency Winter Shelter opened many years ago, Debra Johnson, now President of the WCCS Board of Directors, began calling her friends to provide some warm food for the very hungry and distressed people who appeared at its door. About five years ago, Debra created the West County Winter Shelter FaceBook page where she told the stories of local individuals who had been homeless and tenants at the Winter Shelter who then became productive members of the community. Now she has more people wanting to volunteer their help than she has nights to fill.
These volunteers provide most of the sustenance that the people using the Winter Shelter have each day. The staff at the Shelter also gives a bag with a sandwich and fruit to the visitors when they leave in the mor
ning. With their contribution of a warm dinner each night, the volunteers make a major positive difference in the lives of many very needy individuals. West County: a community of people sharing their own good fortune with the less fortunate among us.