Warming shelter provides for five people displaced during cold last week

NILES — As the polar vortex descended upon the Midwest last week, volunteers from Michiana Heating & Air Conditioning, the Niles Salvation Army and UltraCamp were among the few who did not rush to the safety of their warm homes.

The staff at Michiana Heating & Air Conditioning opened up its showroom to serve as a temporary shelter.

Business owner Steve Gillispie and marketing director Janet Lassen said the warming center sheltered five people during the cold snap. 

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Niles Lakeland Hospital were among those who coordinated with Michiana Heating & Air Conditioning to assure that individuals with nowhere to go were safe from the biting cold. Among those sheltered was a man who had just been discharged from Lakeland Hospital. The man’s mom, who also did not have anywhere to go at the time, was sheltered, too.

While Gillispie and Lassen said they had been prepared for more people, they were happy to help the few that came to the door.

“If there was even one person that we could get out of the cold, that is what we wanted to do,” Gillispie said. “There are not too many places in Niles that have the ability to house 100 people if needed to.”

Now, Gillispie said he is considering working with local outreach groups to potentially use the space as an emergency shelter in the event of other inclement weather or disasters.

There were 12 volunteers who helped Lassen and Gillispie run the shelter. Both Lassen and Gillispie thanked Kim Savage for volunteering to help oversee emergency operations. Savage has experience helping those in need. She is the former owner of Eleventh Harvest Café. In addition to running the restaurant, she opened a soup kitchen out of the business to serve those in need.

They were also grateful to the community for donating food, water, blankets and a number of other supplies. Lassen said they got such a great outpouring of donations that they were able to box and send some of the supplies to a shelter in Elkhart that started running low on food, hot cocoa and water.

“They were very grateful for that,” Lassen said.

The business intends to donate the leftover food to a local pantry and some of the household cleaners to animal shelters, Lassen said.

Gillispie said the cold snap was a busy time for the business, with his crew members out and about repairing furnaces throughout last week.

“It always feels good in these times to go out and get someone’s heat going or their air conditioner,” Gillispie said. “That’s always a wonderful thing, but then to have this [the shelter] too. It’s kind of two-fold.”

In addition to helping their community, Gillispie said a significant benefit to opening the warming center was making contacts with people like Savage who volunteer regularly. 

Lassen echoed this sentiment.

“It was great not just to see the people we helped, but what was there,” Lassen said. “They [volunteers] are doing this to help the community and they want to help the community.”

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Berrien County reports three new COVID-19 deaths

Dowagiac

Patrick Hamilton Elementary School closes for three days due to COVID-19

Dowagiac

Don, Joan Lyons donate $28,000 to Dowagiac Union Schools

Buchanan

Registration open for YMCA’s 39th annual Thanksgiving Day Run

Dowagiac

Dowagiac schools receive positive audit

News

Niles Township passes sewage increase

Business

Four Flags Antique Mall acquires new owners

Dowagiac

14th annual Sandhill Crane All Trail Race draws record numbers

Cass County

Woman in stable condition following Sunday shooting

Cass County

Suspect pleads guilty in Dowagiac murder case

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: COVID-19 cases continue to rise in southwest Michigan

Cass County

Lewis Cass ISD Parents as Teachers program receives national recognition

Dowagiac

Sister Lakes Brewing Company hosts Dewey Lake Monster conference

Giving

Chili cook-off benefited displaced veterans through chow, competition and charity

Cass County

Cass County seeks volunteers for boards, committees

Berrien County

Operation Safe Stop runs this week

Cass County

Woman shot in Calvin Township, suspect arrested in Goshen

Cassopolis

Cassopolis Middle School student tests positive for COVID-19

Berrien County

Buchanan Township man hospitalized following Friday evening stabbing

Dowagiac

Dowagiac District Library launches new programs

Dowagiac

Young Professionals of Greater Dowagiac to host fifth annual mommy, son event

Dowagiac

Rotary ready to volunteer at Sandhill Crane Run

Berrien County

YMCA of Greater Michiana opens full day childcare at Northside Child Development Center

News

Fall hiking tour planned at Madeline Bertrand County Park