We have been having such splendid weather it is a little hard to remember that just a few short weeks ago we woke to frost on the grass and frozen birdbaths. It was so cold that people sleeping on the streets were in real danger of dying from hypothermia.
During those frigid days, our winter shelter program faced “blackout” dates, meaning the armory where we normally shelter 80 people, would be used by the National Guard for training activities. For just a few nights, we needed an alternate place for a shelter. Last summer and fall, we sought out potential places. The only feasible offer came from our friends at the First Baptist Church of Glendale. This beautiful church on the corner of Louise and Wilson in downtown Glendale was constructed in the mid-1920s. They had previously hosted our early morning 100,000 Homes registry.
On their campus is a huge old gym and auditorium, complete with marble-partitioned bathrooms, newly refinished floors and fresh paint. Notwithstanding its charm, it does not have heat or a strong electrical system. So we set to work to adapt our needs accordingly:
- Our inventive staff cut up used yoga mats – the best use for yoga mats, according to some really inflexible people I know – and put them under the cots metal legs to protect the floor.
- Since space heaters did not seem to be a good option, we ordered more blankets.
- LAHSA requires a separate eating area, so the stage became the dining room.
- We stocked up on donated hats, scarves and gloves, as well as hot chocolate and coffee.
As these plans were underway, the City of Glendale learned we did not have heat. This is where the story takes a real heartwarming turn.
Deputy City Manager John Takhtalian contacted every prop house around for large heaters that could be used in the gym. He sent City staff over to test the electrical system and arranged for generators to support the heater exhaust fans. Moises Carrillo and Ivet Samvelyan of the City of Glendale joined John to ensure the heaters arrived and were set up correctly.
As Program Director Mary Leasure remarked, “it got really toasty”.
Meanwhile ABC7 showed up to do a local story on the cold, clients were lining up and the program got under way. Pastor Charlie and Teena Frazier from the Church showed up to lend their support.
Churches can get busy with the day-to-day of their parish life and City staff have plenty to do without running around looking for heaters. We are extremely grateful for the generous spirit of Glendale First Baptist Church and the City of Glendale.
If you have never been to the First Baptist Church, they have free concerts the first and third Wednesday from 12:10 – 12:40 at 209 N. Louise Street, Glendale, CA 91206.
photo credit: Mark Horvath