Nearly 1,000 residents find warmth at Cape Girardeau shelters

Thursday, January 29, 2009
ELIZABETH DODD ~ edodd@semissourian.com
Mert Patterson of Cape Girardeau stays warm Wednesday morning at the Salvation Army after she lost power Tuesday night.

In Cape Girardeau, the Salvation Army and Osage Community Centre opened as warming stations, though each had only a handful of occupants Wednesday. The Osage Centre closed by afternoon, while the Salvation Army site was converted to an American Red Cross shelter.

Cheryl Klueppel, executive director of the Southeast Missouri chapter of the American Red Cross, said 11 shelters across Southeast Missouri had been opened by 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. By 8:30 p.m. a total of 915 people were scattered around the various sites.

She said the Red Cross is prepared to shelter people through the weekend, but "it could be longer. We are preparing our volunteers to plan for five days."

She suggested people who need to leave their homes "be prepared and think about if they need to leave home or can they stay at a family or friend's home. They should remember to take all medications and snacks, activities and, if possible, a blanket and pillow. We cannot guarantee blankets because of the vast need."

Maj. Ben Stillwell of the Salvation Army said those seeking refuge from the cold would find 100 cots, hot drinks and food at his site.

This is the third time in a year the building has been used as a warming station, the other times being during the February ice storms and the March floods.

Stillwell is prepared for the building to stay open as long as needed, even if it briefly loses power, as it did for a three-hour period Wednesday.

"It's a blessing to people who need it," said volunteer Tomekia Higgins. "We're eager and willing to offer our services."

Jerry Baker and neighbor Mert Patterson arrived at the Salvation Army at about 9:30 a.m. Their neighborhood lost electricity around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday. Patterson said this was the first time her home has been without power since she moved there in 1954.

"I love to read and move around in my home, and without power it's hard to do so," Patterson said in between reading chapters of the Bible. "I'm hoping to get back as soon as I can."

Unlike Patterson, Baker said this was his first winter storm in Cape Girardeau. He said this would be his last in Missouri.

"I'm moving back to Houston," said Baker, who planned to pass the time at the building on Good Hope Street by reading and surfing the Internet. "Though I'm grateful for what the Salvation Army has done for us, I'm not liking the ice. As a 55-year-old, this is very hard on my body."

By 8:30 p.m., nearly a dozen individuals had arrived, including a family of five, according Jackie Fluegge, a Salvation Army worker.

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

388-3646

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