Co-op Community

Co-op’s Key Role at Temporary, Emergency Cold Weather Shelter

By Greg Lessard, Director of Development

In mid December, The Friends Program Executive Director, Jerry Madden, was asked by Mayor Jim Bouley to manage a temporary, emergency cold weather shelter. Jerry needed to find a resource for the coordination of volunteers. The Concord Food Co-op took on the responsibility. Co-op member and volunteer Judy S. said, “I am very pleased to know that the Co-op is behind this. After all, we are a community.” The Co-op immediately enlisted the help of volunteer coordinators. One of the coordinators, Juliana Dapice, referred to the scheduling of 100 plus volunteers under such a tight time frame as, “a Herculean task”.

The shelter opened on January 5, 2016 and currently has 90% of volunteer spots covered. Although many volunteers stepped forward to help, there are still not enough volunteers scheduled on weekdays in March to safely manage the shelter during the OVERNIGHT shift – from 7:00pm to 7:00am, Furthermore, each night that the shelter is open, at least one female volunteer is required. There are nights where no women are scheduled.

Recently Jennifer Kretovic took a turn at the shelter. Jennifer wrote, “They arrive cold and tired and they are our poor. Foregoing your own unencumbered rest for one night is such a small sacrifice to make for these people that have so little. I implore you to please consider using the instruction below to sign up for even just one overnight shift. You too will be enlightened and enriched by the experience.

When Jennifer Kretovic volunteered for the overnight shift at the homeless shelter located at Christ the King Parish, Saint Peter’s Campus Parish Hall, she shared her experience so that volunteers would know what to expect.

Sheltered from the Cold
“I am here to watch over the women and children. It is heart-wrenching to see them come in, a mom and her babes in tow. They are so well-behaved, carrying books to read before bedtime. Picture a Norman Rockwell painting with Mom tucking in the children and setting aside their books on the night stand.
There are five of us here to tend to the guests: one staff member and four volunteers. The staff person, Vinnie is well-tuned to his shelter role. He is kind and respectful to the guests, diplomatic when volunteers ask questions and protective of everyone. He runs down the rules for us, is right there if we need him, attentive, awake and alert for the full 12-hours.
One cannot keep from wondering how our guests came to homelessness. Some, like Robert have been homeless for years. One young man simply ran out of couches. He is young, or just looks young in the amber glow of the church and street lights. We were chatting during one of the smoke breaks before lights out. He is very polite and mentions family. A brother that went to college and he talks about regret. Says he should have gone to college after high school instead of putting it off. I tell him ‘we all take a different path in life.’ He is quiet. I am not good at this.
They snore. The cadence varies from one guest to the next. “Lights Out” came at 10:00 p.m. sharp. Oddly, when one stops, they all stop. How do these strangers fall together in this shelter that they then snore in rhythm and settle in silences?
At one point in the night I stopped watching the clock and dozed off. The morning crew will be arriving and I am anxious to leave. I don’t want to see the kids waking up and going out into the cold with their mothers. I don’t want to see any of them having to face the cold day ahead. Overwhelmed with empathy, am I just tired, or have I really been this sheltered from the realities of homelessness in Concord? I can’t be sure. However, the doors will open again tonight. The moms and babes will come in from the cold and need someone to watch over them.”
Jennifer Kretovic
City Council, Ward 3

Click this link to go to our invitation page on VolunteerSpot to volunteer: