A campaign to fund continued operation of Rochester’s new warming center has received a big boost.
Rochester residents Ron and Dianne Yanish have pledged $100,000 to kick off the 2020 Rochester Cares Campaign, according to Mary Alessio, director of advancement for Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota.
“Ron and Dianne have been longtime supporters of Catholic Charities and the vulnerable served in our community,” Alessio said in a statement announcing the gift. “Their name is synonymous with compassionate generosity on behalf of those living on the margins.”
Andrew Frick was among approximately 40 volunteers attending training Saturday at the new Rochester Community Warming Center.
Catholic Charities began operating the new Rochester Community Warming Center, 200 Fourth St. SE, last month.
Operations were established in a Olmsted County owned building with financial support of the county, the city of Rochester and local business entities, including the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce and Mayo Clinic.
Early estimates indicated operational costs at $180,000 for the first season, which will run through March 31.
With plans to offer five months of nightly operation, the second season for the warming center is set to start in November.
The center offers people facing homelessness a safe and warm place to sleep, along with access to a shower, laundry facilities, healthy snacks and beverages and fellowship. Center staff are also able to provide referrals for additional help and assistance.
Michael Gwanjaye, the center’s coordinator, said use of the facility has fluctuated since opening, but currently 20 to 24 homeless residents are seeking shelter each night. So far, the need has not topped the 30 beds at the site, he added.
If the center sees an increase in numbers, Catholic Charities has arranged to use the city’s Soldier’s Field Clubhouse as a backup location.
Alessio indicated such efforts are not possible without community support.
“For many in Rochester, the experience of homelessness is not something they envision; it is their reality,” she said.
A recent, three-day count found 123 people without shelter in November.
On Friday, Olmsted County Commissioner Stephanie Podulke said 30 of the people counted in November have since been connected with permanent housing.
At the same time, advocates for the homeless note hundreds more, including families with young children, continue to face housing uncertainties on a daily basis.
Alessio said that is why Catholic Charities is encouraging local residents to consider the need in the same way the Yanishes do.
“Ron and Dianne believe there are two key beliefs that guide their commitment to giving back: Over and over, it has been made crystal clear the basics of life are important — love of God, family and friends, a commitment to integrity … and a commitment to leadership,” she wrote of the couple. “The second belief is that the secret to happiness in life is being generous with time, talent and treasure.”
Anyone interested in contributing to the Rochester Cares effort can visit the Chatholic Charities website at www.ccsomn.org.
In addition to financial contributions, the center is seeking volunteers to work with its paid overnight staff.
Volunteers are needed throughout the night but typically work in shifts, with the first starting at 8:30 p.m. and running until 2 a.m., when the second shift starts, The second shift runs until 7 a.m..
Guests start arriving at the center at 9 p.m. and are required to leave by 7 a.m.
Potential volunteers can contact Gwanjaye at 507-287-2047 ext. 33.