Spreading warmth: The QC community bands together on the coldest days in 26 years

A+room+at+Coram+Deo+Bible+Church+in+Davenport+was+completely+emptied+and+filled+with+cots+for+the+homeless+in+anticipation+of+the+incoming+polar+vortex+on+Jan+29.
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Spreading warmth: The QC community bands together on the coldest days in 26 years

A room at Coram Deo Bible Church in Davenport was completely emptied and filled with cots for the homeless in anticipation of the incoming polar vortex on Jan 29.

A room at Coram Deo Bible Church in Davenport was completely emptied and filled with cots for the homeless in anticipation of the incoming polar vortex on Jan 29.

Sarah Danielson

A room at Coram Deo Bible Church in Davenport was completely emptied and filled with cots for the homeless in anticipation of the incoming polar vortex on Jan 29.

Sarah Danielson

Sarah Danielson

A room at Coram Deo Bible Church in Davenport was completely emptied and filled with cots for the homeless in anticipation of the incoming polar vortex on Jan 29.

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When life-threatening cold weather made its way through the Quad Cities, many in the area without homes found warmth and hospitality when local volunteers banded together as a community.

As January’s polar vortex made its way through Eastern Iowa, temperatures dropped as low as minus 52 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill. At that temperature, the human body can start to shut down within 10 minutes and can lead to serious health risks, including death.  

Dangerously cold weather poses obvious problems for the homeless population. In the Quad Cities, those who live on the streets have limited access to shelter from these conditions. The homeless shelters in the area do not have enough room to house all people of need and fill up quickly in these extreme circumstances.

Grady Adkins, the executive pastor at Coram Deo Bible Church, was aware of this problem. Knowing the homeless population would be especially vulnerable during the impending polar vortex, he and members of his church decided to take action that would help to ensure the homeless would have a safe haven during these conditions.

“It was a great opportunity to help those in need…we knew we couldn’t look the other way. It was something we knew we had to do,” he said.

Thus began the preparations for Coram Deo’s warming center. What started as an idea soon became a full-blown operation–one that couldn’t have happened without the help of the QC community.

The plight of the homeless in this weather was not a problem of which others were unaware. When word spread that the warming center was being set in motion, many local companies were quick to help.

Several Quad City businesses donated to the cause. According to Adkins’s estimates, the National Guard sent 60 cots, Sam’s Club sent 30 blankets and pillows, Costco sent a $150 gift card to be used as needed at their store, and JC Penney’s sent an array of blankets, comforters and pillows.

And the generosity kept flowing in: Enterprise Rent-A-Car let Coram Deo rent a highly discounted van for the week, Chick-Fil-A sent 75 meals, Unity Point Trinity sent a cash donation and Bettendorf Christian Church sent enough food to provide a meal for each of the homeless who would take shelter. River Bend Food Bank sent 1,000 pounds of food, and Ultimate Fitness allowed for volunteers at the warming center to transport the homeless to their facility to use the showers.

Individuals throughout the community followed suit. Adkins said Coram Deo received two rooms full of donations from community members, ranging from towels to winter coats and toiletries to air mattresses. Many others volunteered their time. Around 60 people helped at the warming center to make everything run smoothly. Volunteers helped to serve food, organize donations, run the front desk and visit with the guests.

Sarah Danielson
Coram Deo Church members collected a large number of blankets for those in need this winter. Numerous additional piles of donations from area QC citizens can be found around the church.

Coram Deo was not the only warming center to spring up. According to Adkins, Unity Point Trinity also had a warming center running during the polar vortex.

Adkins was thankful for all the help from the community. “We definitely could not have done this without the help of our community, specifically the businesses and the people within the community. The generosity was overwhelming,” he said.

And sometimes that generosity can have a ripple effect.

Casey Keller received an email on Jan. 30 that the warming center was looking for volunteers. He quickly signed up to help, and later that day, he was manning the front desk.

He soon noticed one of the guests at the warming center, Christopher Brunnett, who had immediately started pitching in to help around the center after checking in. He volunteered to do anything to keep his hands busy–whether it was vacuuming or cleaning windows, Brunnett wanted to do anything he could to show his appreciation.

This caught Keller’s attention. As one of the owners of K&K True Value Hardware in Bettendorf, he said he is always looking for potential workers who have a great attitude and willingness to work. He approached Brunnett and offered him a job interview. To Keller, Brunnett “fit into the store culture.”

A few days later, Brunnett went to K&K to interview for a position. “He got the job. The interview went well, and the other owners quickly picked up on his eagerness to work,” Keller said.

To Keller, this experience reinforced many values he already held close. He said, “It’s about the spirit of caring when it is cold–what other options do they have?” This cold day was also an opportunity for Brunnett, who now serves as a full-time employee at K&K Hardware.

Kenny Shimmin, a guest at the Coram Deo warming center, is spending his first winter as a homeless man. To him, the first priority in the cold weather is to find somewhere warm and to try and stay out of the cold and wind. However, many locations are only open during the daytime. This is why it is important for Shimmin to find something open in the evenings.

A few nights before the warming center was opened, Shimmin had to spend the night in an elevator. It was not ideal, but he said it was, at least, something that kept him out of the wind.

Moreover, he emphasized the importance of choosing the right fuel for the body. “Food is essential–carbohydrates and protein-based food. [I] stay away from sugar; it bothers my body when cold. Warm stuff like soup and coffee is also good,” he said.

Shimmin is a veteran and believes programs that help people like him are most beneficial. “Veteran programs have helped a lot. More programs have started up.”

Shimmin tries to remain optimistic even on the coldest of days. “I take it day by day. You have to make it the best you can and stay positive–make it day by day.”

“It is crucial to always recognize the plight of those around us who are less fortunate,” Adkins said. But, it is especially important to recognize this in dangerous conditions like those that the Midwest experienced recently.

Shimmin put it best. “The community coming together is important. You need to be aware of your surroundings. Instead of living in your own bubble, look outside of your box.”