by NATHANIEL NELSON
The Winona Community Warming Center (WCWC) is about to get a whole lot bigger. Over the next few weeks, the Warming Center will undergo a full renovation, adding two bathrooms, a shower, a larger storage space, and an expanded kitchen and dining room.
The Warming Center, located off Lafayette Street behind the Community Bible Church, is a nonprofit shelter for people experience homelessness. Since its inception in 2017, it has provided a safe space for dozen of people looking to spend cold nights in a place where they can feel safe and secure.
According to Lynette Johnson, WCWC coordinator, the expansion is a long time coming.
“Imagine coming here every night and feeling cramped. This will give our guests more space,” Johnson said. “It will make the space feel more like home.”
Back in December, employees of Ames Construction who have been working on the interstate bridge came to the center to serve a hot meal to guests, bringing in baked ham, turkey, stuffing, and more for dinner. Later on, they gave the center some good news.
“They gave us a call and said they would love to help with a project that [we] otherwise couldn’t afford,” she said.
After some deliberation, Johnson said the most important thing was adding another toilet –– when you only have one toilet split between 12 guests and an hour to get ready, it can be a bit of a struggle, she explained. So the planning process began, and before too long, the project had expanded to rework the basement shelter entirely.
Johnson explained that the current sleeping quarters will be renovated into a full-sized kitchen and dining room –– which used to be housed in a small corridor. The main section, which has been relatively underused, will become the new storage and sleeping quarters, complete with a walled-off section for guests to store their belongings for the night.
The center will now get two new toilets (bathrooms), and another shower will also be added, alleviating some of the burden for guests who are crunched for time.
Ames Construction will donate the work,but the project won’t be free.
“We still have to pay for plumbing and electricity, which is not cheap,” Johnson explained.
The center will also need to buy new fixtures like toilets, sinks, and more, which all impact the organization’s bottom line.
To help with this, WCWC will be running a fundraising campaign for $7,000 to help pay for the project, as well as future projects including the addition of flooring, ceiling tiles, and more. Alliant Castings has offered matching donations as well to help support the center.
“We feel this is a project the community can get behind. Even if you donate only $5, that can go a long way,” Johnson said.
Despite the fact that the funding is not all there, the renovation has already begun. Johnson explained that the plumbers and electrician have started without getting paid because they support the mission of the center. Walls have been knocked out, the storage area has been cleared, and over the next few weeks, the center will finally receive a much needed facelift.
“The biggest thing was that we would only do this project if we were open every night,” Johnson said. “I know the volunteers are super excited. It’ll be much better for our guests, and much homier.”
To donate, checks can be made out to Catholic Charities, with WCWC Facility Renovation Fund in the memo line, and sent to 111 Market Street, PO Box 379, Winona, Minn., 55987. For more information, contact Lynette Johnson at 507-458-9197 or via email at email@example.com.
St. Mary’s hosts community conversation
by NATHANIEL NELSON
On Saturday, March 2, Saint Mary’s Church will host an event titled “Filling the Gaps Community Conversation: Homeless and Related Issues in the Wider Winona Community,” to address concerns about homelessness within Winona and the surrounding area.
The program will consist of short updates on current programs, and attendees will discuss gaps in existing services and ways of creating solutions to those problems.
At 9 a.m., the event will kick off with a welcome and introductions, where each attendee is invited to list a gap or idea that will be returned to later in the night. From there, several local organizations including the Winona Community Warming Center, Winona Volunteer Services, Winona County government, and more will provide updates on the programs they offer.
Attendees will split into different smaller work groups for two sessions, where they will work on solutions to the aforementioned problems, trying to find ways to improve the community’s shortcomings before coming back together at the end to share their findings.
All Winona residents are welcome.
The program will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 2, in the commons room at Saint Mary’s Church, 1303 West Broadway, Winona. For more information or to RSVP, contact Dwayne Voegeli at firstname.lastname@example.org, Justin Green at email@example.com, or Cynthia Dosier at firstname.lastname@example.org.