New warming center opening in Athens as temperatures dip


MCMINN COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) – With temperatures expected to dip well below freezing this weekend, a group of people in McMinn County is stepping up. They’re helping some of the most vulnerable in the community keep warm.

WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel spoke with volunteers organizing the McMinn Warming Center. This is the first time, they say, something like this has been coordinated at this level.

“It’s a place for people to come and have a warm place to spend the night for our local homeless population,” said Kevin Lane, Executive Director with Coordinated Charities.

The volunteer-run mission gives people in need a place to sleep, stay warm, and get some food. They’re planning to open up in the coming days at East Athens Baptist Church when the low temperature is forecast to be 25 degrees or below.

“We’re hoping people will take advantage of this, instead of potentially being in some life-threatening situation,” Lane said.

Volunteers hope the move creates a lasting foundation for years to come, but this year they’re calling a first.

“There have been different emanations of sheltering in the past. In the last couple of years we haven’t had a very concentrated or concerted effort, so this is new to us. And this year will be the first year that this group of people has all come together from different segments of the community to make this happen,” Lane said.

It’s a way for neighbors to take care of neighbors and lend a helping hand.

“Those people are still worthy of help, they’re worthy of generosity and they’re worthy of love. We are all for this because it gives us an avenue and an opportunity to express that love and to be able to receive people with grace,” said Lane.

As far as volunteers, we’re told the center is covered for the next few cold nights. However, organizers are hoping to put together a volunteer call list for future cold snaps.

You can call the local United Way office at 423-745-9606. You can also contact Grace and Mercy Ministries at 423-920-1367 or Coordinated Charities at 423-745-9625.

The warming center is set to open up at East Athens Baptist Church, that’s at 301 Central Avenue in Athens. We’re told check-in will start after services Sunday night, around 8 p.m.

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