As a freezing cold Cowichan River rushed outside, and below zero temperatures stretched on Tuesday, the warm-hearted seniors of Lake Cowichan opened the doors of their seniors centre to make it a warming centre for the area’s homeless.
“It’s small, but we’re a small little town, and it’s working. It’s working,” said Al Hall, a past president of the Lake Cowichan Seniors Centre.
“This small town we don’t only look after ourselves, we look after people that need us,” said Lake Cowichan resident Tracey Mitchell.
Tuesday was Karaoke Day at the Seniors/Warming Centre, so two seniors were on stage pulling heartstrings and singing ‘Hallelujah’ as hot soup cooked up by another senior warmed hands.
“Well, it’s a welcoming environment when you come in here, and that’s an added bonus,” said Lake Cowichan Seniors Centre volunteer Janene Hall.
“Some of these guys are living in their cars, there’s at least one who’s living in a tent in the bush. So a place to warm up with a cup of coffee and a soup makes all the difference on a day,” said Cheryl Morgan, president of the Lake Cowichan Seniors Centre.
According to Morgan, it came together on Sunday when volunteers realized that no warming centre had opened in the remote community despite the cold temperatures.
“Centennial Hall, which is next to the community centre, is supposed to be a warming centre, but they have to have certain protocols in place, it has to really dip below, and they have staff. So they didn’t open, and they won’t open unless it gets really drastic, so we just sort of stepped in,” said Morgan.
“So Sunday, we started it, and it’s going very well,” said Hall.
“They have stepped up when the government couldn’t. So any small town could do this,” said Mitchell.
With more snow on the way, seniors were already preparing soup and maybe a few songs for Wednesday.