WHEELING - More than 300 people, organizations, churches and businesses volunteered or donated to help about 115 "guests" have a meal and a warm place to spend cold nights at the Winter Freeze Shelter in Wheeling this winter.
Youth Services Systems Inc. - celebrating its 40th anniversary - runs the shelter, which has been offered for the past five years as a ministry of the organization. YSS is member of the Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless. A free hot meal and overnight accommodations are offered in the YSS facility on 15th Street in Wheeling between Dec. 15 and March 15.
"This shelter is an act of love made possible by many volunteers and contributors," said John Moses, executive director of Youth Services System. "We feel this is a community effort. We totally depend upon the volunteers and donations of organizations to be able to respond to individuals in desperate circumstances. At the same time I view this shelter program as Youth Services' gift back to the community."
Photo by Art Limann
John Moses, executive director of Youth Services System Inc., stands in the men’s dorm of the Winter Freeze Shelter at the YSS offices on 15th Street in Wheeling.
Moses said the goal of the program is to "simply keep people healthy and keep them from freezing to death during the coldest time of the year. This year, for the first time, we have also offered them some basic health check-ups and care from volunteers of the county health department."
Most of the guests are men, with 21 women taking advantage of the shelter this winter.
They come to the shelter because they cannot get into traditional shelters - either because those shelters are full or for some other reason the individual cannot be admitted. During the first year of operation, 85-90 people were helped. Each year since then the number has gone up.
"We show hospitality," Moses said. "We open the doors at 10 p.m. each night except on a few real cold nights we opened the doors at 9 p.m. to get people out of the cold. There is always a hot meal waiting for them and a place to sleep. At 7 a.m. most of them go out and go about their business. The joy of doing this is reaching out to people in bad circumstances. It's a great pleasure for me to have volunteers thank me for giving them the opportunity to stay here overnight. They learn things about the people and learn things about themselves."
Moses said this morning a breakfast will be served to mark the end of the program for this year. Also people without a place to stay will be given donated handmade plastic mats, sleeping bags, and in some cases tents before they leave if they will be living outdoors.
On Monday, a soup and salad social will be held to thank the volunteers, churches, businesses and other organizations for their help and support during the last 90 days. It will be held at the West Virginia Northern Community College Education Building multi-purpose room on Chapline Street starting at 5:30 p.m.
It will also be an opportunity for volunteers and donors to meet and socialize with each other. The soup is being donated by Ye Olde Alpha, Quaker Stake and Lube, Steve Novotney and YSS' Northern Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Cake, salad and beverages will also be provided.
"We want to thank the generous people of the Ohio Valley for their love and support to our Winter Freeze Shelter guests," Moses said.