8 people met last year in October with one goal in mind, to eliminate death by winter exposure in the community. Little did they know, how big of a difference something as simple as food and shelter, that much of us take for granted, can make.
“At least 3 of our clients have found full time jobs, 2 have moved out and are renting their own place so we’re seeing some progress right there.” says Eva Malvich, the chair of Bethel Winter House.
Taking into account that project would depend on volunteers instead of paid employees, and supplied solely by donations, they decided on a 90 day limit for the groundbreaking project.
The current location is situated at the Covenant Church. A typical night serves just over 20 people with reprieve from the cold winter nights, quite possibly saving lives. The questionnaire that the clients are asked to fill out reveals that all of the clients are Alaskan Natives.
One of the main hurdles for the project was finding volunteers. The reason for this being that the volunteers would often have day jobs or other responsibilities during the day. Though they had success in terms of nutrition for the clients.
“We thought meals would be a nice thing but we couldn’t promise our clients that it would be there every night and so far every night we’ve had a meal.” says Malvich. Though there were some unfortunate deaths.
“With our goal for zero death by exposure, we have lost one individual by the name of Marvin Payne, he had died of exposure in Housing, that was very unfortunate; and another client of ours who had spent the night, from a nearby village had succumbed to hypothermia when he apparently ran out of gas. You know we have a safety net, but sometimes people fall through.” says Malvich.
The Bethel Winter House is scheduled to close Monday morning at 7AM not he 24th of March. Hopes are high for those who run the shelter for opening again in the coming fall.
Plans for next fall include possibly leasing a location and hiring people to monitor the shelter. To fund these plans, Lions Club raised over 4,000 dollars online, and received a $3,600 donation from Calista. They’re seeking a $25,000 grant through the Rasmussen Foundation as well as one of their employees by the name of John Cochrane in the running for a $1,000 donation for an employee of the year award. From an idea to fruition, Malvich didn’t believe their accomplishments would reach this far.
“I would love to thank the 50+ volunteers in this community, I’d also like to thank a lot of the community businesses who have contributed either donated food, or money, or their own time. This could not have been possible without the community’s support, and because of Bethels outpouring support we were able to provide the shelter.” says a grateful Malvich.
If you would like to make a donation, you can go to their donation site.