Cold hands, warm hearts

Instead of tracking down news and collecting quotes, The Slate staff decided to give back to the community Feb. 22 at the Chambersburg Cold Weather Drop-In Shelter.

Feb. 15, Slate staff members first visited the shelter to meet residents and talk to volunteers about needs that could be fulfilled. The following weekend, Slaters returned with a hot meal to share with the homeless.

Matthew Kline, arts and entertainment editor, visited the shelter both weekends.

“It was very different from what I imagined it to be, so I was very happy to see that people without a home had a very nice place to stay,” Kline said. “On the second visit I was a lot more comfortable and knew what to expect. We got right to talking to all the people staying at the shelter and it turned into a great experience.”

People began arriving at the shelter shortly before 7 p.m. Once the residents are signed in they can eat, shower and sleep in a warm bed. At 7 a.m., residents leave for the day. From December to the beginning of April, the shelter gives homeless people a place to go for the night so they are not forced to sleep outside in the freezing Pennsylvania weather.

Rodney Norman and Betty Merkel have been staying at the shelter since Dec. 27, and on Feb. 27 they will be moving into a home of their very own.

“Our biggest thing is faith and going to church,” Merkel said. “It just so happened that people were placed in our life.”

Craig Newcomer, the manager of the shelter, has always been there for individuals like Norman and Merkel. They are both former alcoholics and they attribute their progress to people like Newcomer, who supported them when they were at rock bottom.

Kim McBeth has been volunteering at the shelter for three months and hopes to open a refuge for abused women and single moms one day.

“These folks are just like family to me,” McBeth said.

At its maximum capacity, the shelter can hold roughly 22 people. There are bins full of donated clothing and if they are lucky, locals bring in food for dinner. Some nights there is more than enough to go around while other times the volunteers pull money together to order pizza. There is always a need to be fulfilled.

Bottled water, long johns, men’s coats and pants, pillows and feminine products are just a few of the items that are in short supply at the shelter.

To help the Chambersburg Cold Weather Drop-In Shelter, The Slate is holding a donation drive from Monday, March 3 through Friday, March 7. Boxes for donations will be set up outside of The Slate Office in CUB Room 250 and on the first floor of Rowland Hall near the communication/journalism department office.

After leaving Chambersburg, The Slate staff reflected on their experience with the homeless.

“I just felt so blessed leaving the cold weather shelter. I complain so much but I don’t have anything to complain about,” The Slate’s assistant opinion editor, Cassandra Clarhaut, said. “I have a house, a car, food to eat, a family to run to if things get bad. My life is so good. Others aren’t as fortunate and it felt so humbling to be in their presence.”

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