WHEELING - West Virginia Northern Community College Youth Service System concluded the fourth annual Winter Freeze Shelter Saturday.
A soup and salad social was held Tuesday to recognize the many volunteers and contributors who made the yearly project possible.
For a period of 90 days - from Dec. 15 to March 15 - the fourth floor of the frontal office offered shelter and fellowship for homeless adults during the cold winter, when the demand on local housing resources has the greatest demand. This year 113 people, 86 men and 27 women, stayed for one or more nights, compared to last year's 107.
"These individuals have been met with warm food from Wheeling's best cooks, with an acknowledgement of their own humanity," said John Moses, executive director.
"For a number of our guests, we have been able to assist with more permanent solutions to their housing needs," he said, adding that more than 200 volunteers make the service possible with work including donation of work, goods and money from numerous area business and two dozen churches.
Mike Toothman, of Youth Services System, noted that this year's winter was particularly difficult and the need great.
"This was a full house right up until the last day," he said, adding that volunteers also supplied the homeless with sleeping bags and tents when possible. He pointed to the example of Ron Mulholand, founder of Youth Service System. Mulholand was a Marist brother with a strong belief in serving those in need.
"We're grateful simply that there are so many people willing to help," he said.
Darryl E. Clausell, Youth System board chair, welcomed the 100 people in attendance. He conveyed the best wishes and regards of Steve Novotney, WKKX-FM, who had been featured to speak but was unable to attend.
Carolyn Smith, Christ United Methodist Church, spoke of the virtue of finding small, everyday ways to help and contribute to providing help for those in need in the community. She praised Moses for his vision in foreseeing the possibility of the yearly service. The idea for such an event came up among the members of Homeless Coalition, who put the plan into effect after the purchase of the Hazel/Atlas building made space available.
Moses spoke about the humble birth and life and Jesus as an example and added that God will judge people by how they treat those most in need. He related the personal stories of several homeless who benefitted from the offer of shelter, companionship and food. He added that 10 children ages two weeks to 10 years old from four families were saved from being put out on the streets through monetary donations that prevented their families from being evicted.
He said a small miracle occurs during those 90 days and he thanked everyone who made it happen.
"That's an incredible miracle," he said, adding that as many as 300 to 500 people from across the Ohio Valley contributed in one way or another. "There are hundreds of hands and hearts behind what happens here."
During the 90-day shelter the space is divided into a men's and women's dorm. Close to 20 people will stay during a given night. At last two volunteers are present every night to serve meals and attend any issues that might arise. Rehabilitation center volunteers have also helped those visitors battling addiction.
Clausell concluded with a challenge to see and help those in need.
Soup for the event was donated by Chef Rocco Basile, Ye Olde Alpha, Quaker Steak and Lube, Novotney, and YSS's Northern Regional Juvenile Center.
DeFrank can be reached at email@example.com