HURON — Helping people stay warm in this frigid spell of cold weather is the goal of Salvation Army Lieutenants Matthew and Kaylie Darrow, who have turned the local Salvation Army into a shelter where anyone is welcome to come in, warm up, have a hot meal, and even spend the night if needed.
“It was so cold, and my wife was pondering what else we could be doing to help the community,” Matthew Darrow said. “We know from asking around town there’s not an actual shelter in Huron. After speaking with the police department, we do know that if someone is traveling through and in need, the police will help find them a motel for a night or two, and the Ministerial Association does the same thing. We were looking for something for those emergency needs,” he said. “You never know what the weather will be like. It’s nice to have a for-sure place to come in and be warm.”
Darrow said they attended a Community Collaboration meeting a few weeks ago, and one of the things they were asked is if they would be opening up a shelter.
“We said we can’t open a full-on shelter, but we would like to have an overnight warming site,” he said. “People can come in at any time during the day, and a hot meal is served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., then stay at the building all day if they don’t have any place else to go.
“We want you to stay warm, and we want you to have a hot meal,” Darrow added.
The shelter has been set up in the chapel at the Salvation Army, 237 Illinois Ave. S.W.
“We purchased 10 twin-size air mattresses, sheets, pillows and pillow cases, and fleece throw blankets, and set aside heavy blankets from the thrift shop,” Darrow said. “We cleared all of our chairs out of the chapel and set up shop in there. That’s the easiest room for us to monitor.”
Darrow said the shelter will be open for use in cases of extremely cold weather. For more information, call Matthew Darrow at 605-960-0018 or Kaylie Darrow at 350-4213.
“Last week we had a gentleman that came to dinner, asking us if we would be open all night because the heat in his place wasn’t working,” he said. “
While the man stayed throughout the day, his heat did begin working and he was able to return home to sleep.
Darrow said they are looking for volunteers who would be available to help in the shelter overnight.
“That’s the biggest thing for our district leaders in Omaha,” he said. “Ideally we have to have two adults overseeing everything. For me, personally, I would like to have four.
“In order to make this fully operational, instead of just as-needed, we need volunteer help,” he added.
Beds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If needed, upholstered chairs used in the chapel can be pushed together to make additional sleeping space.
Darrow said they would welcome volunteers to help staff the shelter and donations of more air mattresses and warm blankets.
“The one down side, and this is a hindrance for every shelter I’ve ever seen, we are limited on beds,” he said. “Having the stuff on hand is really best. I would rather have it and not need it than need it and don’t have it.”
Darrow said they have family-friendly movies playing at low volume through the night, mainly because “it gives a bit of a calming effect.”
Those who spend the night receive a free hot breakfast, and are welcome to spend the day at the Salvation Army. They also have video gaming systems set up, pool tables, dart board, ping-pong tables, bean bag toss, a youth library section and children’s activities.
“We’re trying to make the building more appealing to families,” Darrow said, adding that everyone is invited to any activities and programs they offer. “Parents attending activities can bring their kids. While the adults are having their fellowship and activities, the kids can be supervised in the youth activity room.”
A new program is the Zumba fellowship for women held each Monday from 7 to 8 p.m. The program is free and everyone is welcome. Programs for men are held at the same time.
Darrow said they are working to reorganize the after-school program which was allowed to lapse before he and his wife were appointed to Huron, and plans are coming together for a summer daycare for youth to have a safe place to go each day.
“We’re currently working out details for that,” he said. “We’re going to try to keep it low cost to parents; we’re still working out the finely-tuned details on that.”
But until summer’s heat brings welcome relief, their focus is on helping people stay safe and warm this winter.
“My wife and I are supervising this whole thing,” Darrow said. “In order to make this fully operational instead of just as-needed, we need volunteer help.
“Now it’s a matter of getting more able bodies to help us out with overseeing it,” he said. “The most important is to donate time to help out with the program, whether that’s volunteering with dinner or coming in the next morning and helping out with a free hot breakfast for those that stayed overnight.
“We have to let the community know that it is open when we have extreme cold weather like this,” he added. “We want to provide for whatever the need is.”