CLINTON – At dinner time Monday, the line for food at the Victory Center Ministry was shorter usual, one frequenter said. The Rev. Ray Gimenez, the pastor who heads up the ministry, said this was somewhat expected given Monday’s circumstances.
“The exposure to the outside can literally kill you,” he added. “We’re using everything we possibly can to keep our people warm.”
Temperatures in the city dropped to as low as negative 18 on Monday. The weather shutdown local schools, burst residential pipes, canceled work for thousands and forced many – like those who utilize the Victory Center and other shelters – to choose between eating and braving the elements.
Gimenez said the ministry did what it could to provide blankets and food for anyone who required. The Victory Center ran out of blankets.
The weather even did what it could to shut down those who are here to help. The American Red Cross closed its operation for the day, citing the cold. Local plumbers backlogged frozen pipe victims into Tuesday with the large number of calls.
Gimenez is doing whatever he can to help those who need it.
“We’re trying to appeal to anyone who might be in need,” Gimenez said. “We will bring hot meals, groceries, shovel sidewalks – anything they need us to do.”
He said the ministry dealt with its own appliance issues. Earlier in the day, the shelter’s furnace was experiencing problems affecting hundreds, another resident said. By 5 p.m., the heat appeared to be back on, but visitors still donned some winter getup.
Two miles down the road, the Clinton County Administration Center on 19th Avenue North experienced a first-ever, according to supervisor Jill Davisson. During high heat, the facility has been used in the past as a “cooling” center for residents. Davisson said Monday was the first time the public came to use the lobby as a “warming center.”
“Today, tomorrow and Wednesday we are determined to be a warming center for anyone who requires it,” Davisson said. “This is the first time that I’m aware. … It seems like the heat of the day’s not as detrimental as the cold.”
Clintonians Shay and Lisa Lewis and Kathy Haring (daughter, mother and grandmother, respectively) were told to use the building after the heat in their home shut down. They were found in the cafeteria area near a big-screen TV, and the county provided the Lewis family with food and drinks.
“We called the police department because our heater stopped working,” Shay Lewis said. “They told us to come here. Luckily the car was able to start.”
According to the forecast, similar weather was on its way to the Clinton today. Gimenez said the Victory Center opened its doors to anyone in need 24/7, and Davisson said the county could hold people from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Without a shelter, Shay Lewis said, “We’d probably be freezing right now. Because blankets can only do so much.”