TOPEKA, Kan. – On one of the coldest days recorded in Topeka, Fellowship Bible Church Hi-Crest, a local nondenominational church, opened up its doors for a much needed service: a warming shelter.
The church, located at 455 S.E. Golf Park Blvd., started operating as a warming shelter from 8 a.m-8 p.m. Tuesday and will continue to do so through Wednesday. The church will reassess if there is a need to continue with the warming shelter past Wednesday.
According to Jill Rice, Fellowship Hi-Crest’s campus director of ministries, once the church learned of the rolling blackouts being implemented Monday by Evergy and Southwest Power Pool along with the frigid temperatures outside, it wanted to offer a warm place for those in need.
The blackouts continued Tuesday morning but have since ceased.
“We also have free blankets that we are giving out,” Rice said. “You don’t have to come and stay to get a blanket. If you just need a blanket, you’re welcome to come and pick up a blanket.”
Rice said the church is also offering bottled water to those who stop by and has 15 hygiene kits on hand thanks to a recent donation.
As of about noon Tuesday, the warming shelter had yet to host any guests, Rice said.
“That’s just kind of one of those things,” Rice said. “We don’t know how big the need is until we jump into it. Part of it is getting the word out and making sure that people know that this is a place they can come and just seeing if the need is there.”
If the warming shelter were to fill up with people, it could hold about 150 people based on 50% capacity, Rice said.
The warming shelter is located in the church’s gym and rows of chairs have been set up to accommodate people.
Rice said this is the first time Fellowship Hi-Crest has opened as a warming shelter.
“As needs arise in our community, we are very in tune with trying to reach out to people and making sure we are addressing those needs and meeting those needs in a healthy way that is creating a loving environment for people where they can continue to grow and develop,” Rice said. “This is just one of those really unique situations where we haven’t experienced temperatures like this in a really long time and certainly haven’t experienced rolling blackouts.”
The Salvation Army, 1320 S.E. 6th St., has also opened as a warming shelter and will continue to provide the service for the rest of the winter if temperatures fall below 20 degrees. The warming center is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday.
About 1 p.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service office in Topeka reported the temperature to be 5 degrees, an improvement from the minus 21 degrees the city experienced early Tuesday.
Temperatures are expected to continue climbing through the week with a high of 43 degrees expected Sunday.