Local warming shelters ramping up ahead of extreme cold temperatures

Toni Vankirk has been volunteering at the Catholic Charities warming center for about a year.

“I make sure everything just flows smoothly through the kitchen,” Vankirk said. “Everyone gets a meal if they choose to eat.”

She helps in the kitchen for up to five days a week.

“Just engaging in the conversation in the kitchen, helping out in there,” Vankirk said. “I think that’s the best part, just hanging out with them in the kitchen, talking to them and getting to know each and every one of them.”

And it’s busy almost non-stop.

“We’re at capacity of 40 a night,” Vankirk said. “We were full the last couple of nights.”

But Catholic Charities isn’t the only place in town helping out those struggling.

“There’s really nothing separately that we do to ramp up for winter that we’re not already doing other than keeping the cold weather supplies on hand,” Salvation Army of La Crosse social services director Krista Coey said.

The Salvation Army of La Crosse always makes sure it has enough items.

“So leading up to winter, we always put out a cry for extra blankets, hats, mittens, coats,” Coey said “We even try to keep a supply of winter boots on hand.”

The community doesn’t let them down.

“A huge pouring in from churches who knit,” Coey said. “And so we get a ton of hand-knitted scarves and hats, which is probably our favorite part this time of year.”

All done to make sure those struggling can enjoy a safe environment.

“They’re just happy they’re here,” Vankirk said. “And they’re warm, and they have a meal. And that’s all some of them ask for.”

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