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As temperatures drop, warming centers open in our area

Across the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas, warming centers and shelters open their doors to help the community stay safe in the cold temperatures.

ARKANSAS, USA — With some of the coldest weather so far this winter, many people across the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas are looking for somewhere to stay warm.

All across our region, organizations are opening their doors to help those in need.

Whether it is cold during the day, or at night, from the Hope Campus in Fort Smith to churches and the Salvation Army, there is somewhere to stay warm. With coffee, hot chocolate, snacks and meals there is something for everyone to warm up from the inside out.

Tonight, as temperatures plummet, many shelters are offering a place to sleep while keeping warm.

Although the temperature threshold varies from place to place before the warming centers open, Thursday, Jan. 6, night was well below the requirement.

Not only do these shelters keep community members warm, but they provide something more.

"It's about providing hope," said Captain Bradley Hargis with the Fort Smith Salvation Army.

Hargis recalls a time when someone came into his shelter seeking warmth from the cold. After a brief stay and seeing there were people willing to help, he was able to turn his life around - which showed Hargis the small act of opening doors when it's cold, can truly make a difference.

In Northwest Arkansas, community organizations have partnered to help provide many options for anyone looking to stay warm.

At the Genesis Church, they have close to thirty beds with blankets, pillows and a tote to store personal belongings while staying out of the elements. It is expected that the Salvation Army of Fayetteville will fill up leaving Genesis Church as an emergency surge shelter ready to bring people in.

For many people, pets are just as much of a family member as your kids, parents or extended family. When it comes to shelters, some don't allow pets indoors, leaving people to make the difficult choice to leave a pet behind or brave the cold temperature with their furry friends. 

Genesis Church is one place where pets are welcome during the bitter cold.

And as coronavirus cases continue to rise, shelters are keeping their doors open while making the necessary safety adjustments. For them, saving a life doesn't come without risk, but the risk can be mitigated.

"COVID safety guidelines are really important, but the shelter is open because there are life-threatening conditions outside," said Rachel Kirksey, Genesis Church Community Care Coordinator. "When we're weighing out COVID safety versus just livability overnight, we gotta go with livability, and we're gonna do it in the safest way that we can."

Brandon Smith, Shelter and Rehab Director for the Salvation Army of Fayetteville echoed the statement by saying, "we have to open our doors, 365 days of the year, we're here." 

The Salvation Army is committed to adapting to make sure they stay open for people needing help.

If you'd like to help, monetary donations are always welcome. However, most shelters are always looking for new pairs of socks, warm blankets, towels and clothes to help those less fortunate during the colder months.

Places to receive help:

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