Mat-Su Valley Corps Community Center Completes First Winter Warming Center
On January 27, The Salvation Army Mat-Su Valley Corps Community Center opened its doors as a warming center to the transient population in the Wasilla-Palmer area. The program, funded by the Mat-Su Health Foundation as a grant managed by the Mat-Su Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, helps individuals living outdoors stay warm throughout the night when temperatures are expected to be 15 degrees or colder. As of early April, the program closed for the winter.
When the weather deemed the warming center open, we averaged three to five people who stayed each night,” said Major Kevin Bottjen, Corps Officer for The Salvation Army’s Mat-Su Valley Corps. “We had more people who would come for the warm meal at 6:00 PM and stay until leaving around 10:00 PM at night.”
Major Bottjen, who enjoys cooking and holds a food manager certification for the State of Alaska, made the warm meals for anyone in need on warming center nights. The meals were prepared in The Salvation Army’s canteen and ranged from spaghetti and salad with garlic bread to casseroles or a variety of soups made from scratch.
The doors closed at 9:00 PM to anyone coming in or wanting to re-enter the building, but part-time employees hosted those who decided to stay at the warming center for the night. Snacks, a bathroom, blankets and a television that played local channels were provided to those in the warming center. Those who stayed overnight were hosted by The Salvation Army Corps until 6:00 AM the next morning and departed with breakfast to-go.
On nights where employees couldn’t make it or stay all night, volunteers stepped in to host the warming center overnight. Community members also donated toiletries and food to help and show their support to those who stayed at the shelter.
“We had so much cold weather this winter. A week before we opened, a man in the area stayed out all night and received such terrible frostbite that he had to have both feet amputated,” recalled Major Bottjen. “We have a desperate need for this program, and we are thankful that the community has been very supportive of our efforts to help those who need it the most. We hope to have the warming center back up in running this coming November.”
The Salvation Army Mat-Su Valley Corps Community Center plans to continue serving meals to the transient community this summer at least once a week. The program would be locally funded through The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services Fund and through community support. The Corps hopes to have the summer feeding program start as early as June.
To learn more about The Salvation Army’s Mat-Su Valley Corps, visit mat-suvalley.salvationarmy.org or follow them on Facebook @salvationarmyMatSu.