MOUNT GILEAD — Three calls came in to United Way Director Jodi Hayes Wednesday morning concerning emergencies due to the frigid weather this week. The calls ranged from loss of heat to frozen pipes in two homes. A call came in later asking if Morrow County has a “warming center.”
The first call Hayes got was from a mom with a nine-month-old baby and a six year-old-child. The family faced having their heat cut off since they owed on utility bills. They had used their heating assistance allowance on propane and didn’t know where to turn for help.
Hayes said they had called several places and the 211 number suggested they call United Way.
A second call came in 10 minutes later from senior citizens in the county who had frozen pipes and no water in their home. Another call came in from the area Agency on Aging asking if Morrow County had any warming centers.
Hayes called other county agencies to see what was available to help people in extremely cold weather. She was able to get help from Job and Family Services for the young family that needed an extension on their heat allowance. Seniors on Center said they would take the senior citizens water to get them through the crisis.
In calling for help, Hayes found that the Red Cross and other agencies in the county don’t have plans for emergencies in this kind of extended, severe winter weather. They are prepared for fire and tornado disasters, or if there is a power outage in an area due to storms.
The Red Cross has several places that can be used in case of storms when power outages occur. They also make provisions for families when there is a fire. However, there are no warming centers or shelters in the county in case of extensive cold weather.
Emergency Management Director John Harsch confirmed that Morrow County has no warming center, although there are a couple in Richland County and other surrounding counties. Harsch said that he would like to see Morrow County have some kind of center or shelter for people in an extended cold season.
“I’ll be calling Jodi,” said Harsch. “This is something we need to set up for Morrow County.”
Hayes said that she will be putting out a request to churches, agencies, veterans’ halls and other places in the county that might be willing to help as a temporary warming center in cold weather emergencies.
“We need to look into what possibilities we have in the county and then make a policy on how we can help people in a cold-weather emergency,” Hayes said.