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.