Volunteers appreciated at Winter Sanctuary

MOUNT VERNON — When Lisa Cook brought some food to the Winter Sanctuary homeless shelter last fall, and saw how appreciated it was, it wasn’t long before she became hooked on volunteering there.

The Mount Vernon resident initially took a volunteer position covering a weekly three-hour shift overseeing guests. Finding that fulfilling, she accepted a larger role in which she shares oversight duties 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. weekends in a paid position supported by an Ariel Foundation grant.

Volunteer Coordinator Mollie West says volunteers are the backbone of the shelter.

“Without them we cannot even be open,” she said. “They provide support and safety. Even though it isn’t a difficult job, it’s an important job. We need to have a volunteer there to make sure guests are doing fine and following the rules.”

The homeless shelter, located at 401 W. Vine St., operates Nov. 1- April 1. There are three shifts for each side (men’s and women’s): 6:30 p.m.-10 p.m.; 10 p.m.-6 a.m.; and 6 a.m.-9 a.m. Volunteers can take shifts on a weekly, every-other-week, or monthly basis, or serve as substitutes.

Volunteers oversee guests during their stay and take any actions necessary to ensure their safety and well-being. They communicate with shelter staff and other volunteers when necessary and may also assist in screening new guests. While no specific skills are required, volunteers must be able to engage with guests in a non-judgmental, affirming way.

Cook, who has five children and two grandchildren, has volunteered in other capacities, in a jail ministry in another community, and now locally for her church, Lifepoint Church in Mount Vernon, where she serves on a team that welcomes guests.

“I like serving and volunteering.,” she said. “It makes me happy.”

For more information, contact the homeless shelter at (740) 392-9277. Email: wntrsanctuary@gmail.com.  Applicants must undergo a background check.