Posted on Jan 14, 2022
On Jan. 2 and 9, Plano West Rotary Club (PWRC) members assisted neighbors who are experiencing homelessness by serving at the Plano Overnight Warming Shelter (POWS). On each cold evening, approximately 40 individuals sought overnight refuge at the shelter which is located inside east Plano’s Salvation Army.
POWS is a cooperative effort by City of Plano, the Collin County Homeless Coalition, The Salvation Army and local churches and nonprofit organizations. When weather conditions reach freezing temperatures overnight, POWS is activated at sundown, allowing any neighbors in need to have a warm place to sleep for the evening, as well as a meal, access to the coat closet and a hot shower.
Rotarian Courtney Hitt is the team leader for the POWS project. Earlier in the fall she recruited PWRC volunteers for the shelter, coordinated training sessions with The Salvation Army and kept volunteers informed as they moved through the process of getting ready to serve.
On the evening of Jan. 2, club member Jennifer Shertzer served three hours at POWS, distributing bedding to overnight guests after they checked in. On the evening of Jan. 9, both Jennifer and Courtney served a total of seven hours at POWS. Courtney helped guests select a coat, gloves, winter hat and any hygiene items needed from the coat closet. Jennifer checked wristbands on guests and provided them with rules and resources before sending them to the bedding station.
Before serving, Jennifer and Courtney shopped for new coats, thermal undergarments and gloves purchased with their own funds and additional donations from generous neighbors. Altogether $560 was spent on brand-new items to donate to the POWS coat closet for the guests to choose from. Many guests arrived with inadequate clothing for the cold weather, and these items can be lifesaving.
“The expression of gratitude from these people who are normally very happy to receive a used coat was wonderful. The look however on their faces as they received a new coat with the tags freshly removed was incredible!” said Courtney.
Serving at POWS allows PWRC to fulfill Rotary’s focus on providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Most of the overnight guests have not had access to clean bedding, a shower or hygiene products in a considerable amount of time.
Our club’s volunteers are able to live out the Rotary mission of “service above self” by also making the overnight guests feel welcome, having a conversation with them, and letting them know there are neighbors and organizations here in Plano that care for their welfare.
“We have a houseless and housing-insecure population in Plano, Texas. These aren't people from surrounding areas that are coming to stay in our overnight warming stations,” explained Courtney. “Just under nearly a year ago [during the February 2021 winter storm], many of us were forced to turn to [a warming station] resource we thought we would never have to utilize. I want people to know that the need for something like this is great, as is the need for people to volunteer.”
There will likely be several more freezing nights in Plano before spring arrives. PWRC is looking for more people – both Rotarians and not – to become trained to work the POWS when needed.
To get information on a future POWS training date, please email Courtney Hitt. If you are interested in serving with Plano West Rotary Club on a different project that fulfills your interests, please check out our upcoming service projects here.