With unprecedented low temperatures across the country, at least 45 daily record lows were set on Tuesday morning. A deadly cold snap caused by bitterly cold air straight from the Arctic, brought the coldest weather in decades to Western North Carolina.
In North Carolina, several cities across the state reported record low temperatures on Tuesday. Asheville recorded a record low of -1, with the previous record of 3 degrees. Macon County was not able to avoid the frigid temperatures reporting temperatures below zero late Monday night and into Tuesday afternoon.
Like so many other school districts across the state, Macon County Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin made the decision to call for a late start to school in hopes warmer weather would make the commute to school easier on families. “The decision to delay school was made to give our bus garage enough time to get the buses started and operational,” said Dr. Baldwin. “Also, by waiting three hours our students and personnel had the benefit of sunlight and a few additional degrees in temperature. Even with the wait, we did have some bus issues, and I would like to thank parents and teachers for their cooperation as our bus drivers, garage and administrators worked those out. I would also like to commend our bus garage and bus drivers for providing safe transportation during this bout of inclement weather.”
Seeing a need for shelter for the homeless in the Macon County community, St. Agnes Episcopal Church on Church Street opened their doors Monday and Tuesday night to anyone seeking shelter. Rev. Dorothy Pratt said the decision was not a hard one. “We just saw a need and just opened our doors, cleaned up a little and were ready to help anyone who needed it,” said Pratt.
Community members joined Pratt by offering snacks and entertainment for anyone seeking shelter from the bitter cold. “This isn’t something we are able to do all the time, but it got people talking and it showed that there is a need for something to help these people in our community,” said Pratt.
Pratt said it was the instinct not only as a Christian, but just as a human being to know that there were people who were out in the dangerous temperatures with no where to go and to want to find a solution.
CareNet was in overdrive to keep up with the demand from concerns regarding the weather. “Currently CareNet is operating per the usual with regards to providing immediate assistance for families in need,” said Shaina Adkins, CareNet director. “We have been working alongside Open Door Ministry, which provides weekend shelter refuge for individuals and families who are homeless. The partnership has been that we, at CareNet, interview individuals and families and refer them to the Open Door Ministry (ODM) program. ODM has been working with a local hotel, Relax Inn, to provide the shelter and we fax the necessary forms over to Relax Inn for the families to check in, etc. We continue to provide food for families through our Food Pantry, Soup Café and we have adapted a new process for distributing perishable goods (i.e. produce, bread, etc.) where families can come and receive a box of perishables at the pantry even if they have already received a box of food from the pantry (once every 30 days eligibility).”
Adkins reported that all around CareNet has seen an uptick in demand for services. “We have seen an increased need in services, not necessarily just due to the poor weather conditions but for ongoing reasons, i.e. job loss, medical, etc.,” she said. “I would assume that with the weather changing rapidly and temperatures declining quickly we may see a growing need for assistance with shelter for the homeless; however, at this time the only program that we are aware of for providing said service is the ODM weekend refuge. The generosity of St. Agnes and His Table to extend their assistance to those in need of shelter for last night was truly an answered prayer.”
Like Pratt, Adkins believes there is a growing need for assistance in Macon County. “I believe we have an obligation to assist those in our community who are in need during times of crisis,” said Adkins. “For those of us who are fortunate enough to have a place to call home, with the warmth and “creature comforts” that give us relief after a stressful day’s work we should be considerate to provide for those who may not share that same reality. If there was one thing I could hope for or pray that Franklin could find a way to assist further … it would be with regards to the homeless. I don’t know what the answer is truthfully, but the fact that there are members of the community who have nowhere to retreat to from the cold or have nowhere that they can rely on for shelter is a troubling fact.”