Wisconsin News

Lots of fundraising still needed for new warming center

Thrivent Financial donates $5,000 to help Catholic Charities

Lots of fundraising needed for new warming center

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Although we're more than halfway through summer, many still remember how cold it was this past winter.

But staying warm this winter is getting easier.

Catholic Charities is moving its warming center to downtown La Crosse. The space will more than double the amount of people it can invite in each night.

Catholic Charities said it turned away about 300 people last year because its current location doesn't have enough room.

Well, it has found more room in downtown La Crosse.

Wednesday Thrivent Financial, of La Crosse County, donated $5,000 to help fund the new warming center.

The remodeling process has just begun, but there is a lot work and fundraising that still needs to happen before having a new space to call home.

The nearly 150-year-old building on 3rd Street has been vacant for about eight years.

But in just a few short months, it will be offering those less fortunate a place to eat, sleep and stay out of the cold.

"Obviously it's going to require a lot of work, but by the time we're finished we're going to be able to house 35 people here in an overnight warming shelter; we're going to be able to run a food pantry here," La Crosse Diocese Bishop William Callahan said.

Also in the new warming center, Catholic Charities will have a laundry room, kitchen and showers, and the charity will be moving some of its offices to the upstairs.

"Some of those people are going to be ready to try to strategize, to make a plan to move themselves out of homelessness. We have people who are experts in helping people do that stuff. So when our guests here, as they get to that point, we'll be in the same building ready to help them with that next step," assistant executive director for Catholic Charities Chuck Berendes said.

With all the changes that need to be made, the old building has a lot of demolition work.

"It's pretty much a complete gut job. It's a building, it's a historic building that has been remodeled a number of times and added onto a number of times over the years, so we're really going to take it back to the bare structure of the building," Chris Huston, vice president of general contractor Fowler and Hammer, said.

But even though there is a lots of cosmetic work to be done, Bishop Callahan said the location is ideal.

"The fact that we're two blocks away from the central bus station, over here. So it is important because our people who need us and will take advantage of this operation usually are bus riders," Callahan said.

After the $5,000 donation from Thrivent Financial Wednesday, Catholic Charities still needs to raise $150,000 to $175,000 before the warming center can open.

Catholic Charities said it will be fundraising a lot over the next few months in hopes of being operational this winter.

Demolition began Friday and has been done by volunteers.

The expected move-in date is Nov. 1.

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