With average temperatures dropping, Beds for Freezing Nights is searching for site volunteers to help serve the unhoused in the community sleep in warmer conditions through frozen winter nights.
“We need a pool of volunteers,” said Board President Ruth Linoz, adding that finding volunteers for the holidays is a yearly challenge. “It’s one of those dynamics where the more people we have, the better.”
For its 12th season, the all-volunteer nonprofit will again serve those in need from Nov. 15 through March 31. Two volunteers are needed per shift when the site is activated to cover a total of three shifts through the night from 6:45 p.m. to 8 a.m.
Volunteers are not required to have any special skills, but undergo background checks and training to ensure a quality of care for those served.
Responsibilities include setting up and taking down shelter supplies, checking guests in and out and generally supervising the shelter.
Last year, Beds for Freezing Nights operated only in the First Presbyterian Church, but this year will return to its main site Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, retaining the Presbyterian church as a backup.
Beds for Freezing Nights activates when the average temperature is predicted to drop to 29 degrees or below for at least six hours overnight.
The group provides not only beds, but also warm beverages and non-perishable foods. In the mornings, users of the facilities are given about 1,400 calories-worth of food to help keep energy levels up in the cold as well as a $5 meal voucher. Warm clothing is also sometimes provided.
With 22 cots, the group rarely reaches capacity.
And while the group is always happy to accept funding, it is often on the lookout for personnel.
“At times we have more need for volunteers than we do funds,” said Linoz. “While we like the money, we are quite often really struggling to provide the service with enough volunteers.”
Without the necessary two volunteers per shift, the center is unable to open.
“There was one time this last season we did not activate because we did not have enough volunteers. That’s rare, but we would rather that doesn’t happen,” said Linoz. “We do our best not to turn anybody away.”
Last year, the group ended the season with 58 volunteers on record with 32 people covering 72 shifts.
Under the right circumstances, services may even be expanded.
This year’s snowstorm served as motivation for the group to look into collaborating with the city as a community emergency shelter should another disaster strike, though no concrete plans have been developed yet.
Keeping the service running costs about $7,000 per year, nearly half of that going toward liability insurance. While a $2,500 grant from the Cottage Grove Community Foundation has helped keep services afloat this past year, the nonprofit relies largely on local donations.
On top of site volunteers, the group is in search of volunteers in a leadership role this year as some board members who have served the nonprofit for many years are looking to step down.
“We want some new board members to help keep the program going,” Linoz said.
Training for site volunteers will be held Nov. 9 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church.
A volunteer application, donation form and center activation status can be found on the group’s website at freezingnights.com. The center can also be called at 541-658-9254 for activation status.