On four days in January and February, Plano West Rotary Club (PWRC) members served as volunteers at the Plano Overnight Warming Station (POWS) located in the East Plano Salvation Army.
POWS was started several years ago as a collaborative effort between the Collin County Homeless Coalition, Salvation Army, City of Plano, Plano Police and area churches. The warming station opens as an emergency shelter when temperatures drop below freezing, and it primarily serves neighbors who are unhoused or without adequate shelter against the elements. Project leader Courtney Hitt served alongside fellow Rotarian Jennifer Shertzer as well as community volunteer Anjelica Solano. Dates worked by the club included Jan. 21, Feb. 2, Feb. 17 and Feb. 23. Altogether a total of 33.5 hours were served by PWRC. Plano West volunteers served a variety of roles depending on what was needed each night. Three volunteers took turns distributing the rules and resources at the Information Table; checking wristbands and handing out bedding at the Bedding Station; helping guests find clothing and hygiene items in the Clothing Closet; and greeting and directing guests upon arrival to the warming station. This service project supports Rotary’s focus on providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Many guests arrive to POWS in soiled clothing and have not had access to a shower or clean clothing in quite a while. Volunteers are able to help offer a safe, warm shelter as well as a cot, clean bedding, homemade food, clean clothing, a hot shower, hygiene items and other helpful resources. Although many consider Collin County and Plano affluent, there is a real need for this type of service. According to the Salvation Army, POWS was open on 12 of the 28 nights in February and served a cumulative total of 1,339 guests. The average nightly head count in February was 112. Although POWS has been operating for several years, this is Plano West Rotary’s first year as an official partner providing recurring trained volunteers. The club hopes that more Rotarians and community volunteers will sign up for the short training next fall so they are ready to serve when temperatures being to drop in November or December. The average evening shift is four hours or less, and there are daytime set-up and break-down jobs available for volunteers who prefer to stay socially distant. When there aren’t enough volunteers signed up to serve, the shelter cannot open. Guests risk their lives when they have to sleep outdoors without shelter on freezing nights. POWS guests constantly reiterate their appreciation for the service of volunteers. As reported in the Plano Overnight Warming Station newsletter, one guest said, “Thank you for volunteering. You could be at home where it's warm, sitting on your couch watching TV instead of coming out in the cold to be with us. You being here means a lot." POWS is always in need of clothing or financial donations. For more information on making a donation or getting trained to serve, email PWRC project leader Courtney Hitt. “POWS impacts us as volunteers in numerous ways. Serving others in need is exactly why I joined Rotary!” said Courtney.