Sheltering in Chatham County: A collaborative effort

Pittsboro, NC – As I sat around the conference room table at our Eastern Center in Pittsboro anticipating the arrival of the first persons seeking shelter from the cold, I remembered an inspirational quote, remarked Dennis Streets, director of the Chatham County Council on Aging. “Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.”

Pittsboro senior center“I thought how apropos is this,” added Streets. “With Chatham experiencing a remarkable snowfall, here are representatives of organizations who have linked arms to assure a safe and welcoming setting for those who are feeling the hardships of such a storm.”

In the early afternoon of Wednesday, January 17, Chatham’s Emergency Operations Center made the decision to open a shelter as the snowfall hastened and roads worsened. They chose the Pittsboro Senior Center because of the location of many power outages, the building being equipped with a generator, and its ability to serve meals.

The opening of a shelter is no simple undertaking. It required notifying and transporting staff to the center. Readying the center for guests meant assembling cots, securing supplies, completing necessary paperwork, reviewing roles, establishing communications, and many other tasks.

Present to assist those needing shelter included personnel from Social Services, Public Health, the Sheriff’s Office, and Red Cross volunteers. Throughout Wednesday into Thursday morning, these individuals awaited and then did all they could to comfort and reassure arrivals dealing with uncertainty and the stresses of the adverse weather.

Special thanks also must go those Chatham County employees who staffed the Emergency Operations Center as well as those who cleared the center’s parking lot and safely transported those seeking shelter. Others in the community offered help as well, including Greg Lewis, owner of the Pittsboro Roadhouse & General Store.

“While collaboration is always to be valued, it is especially important in times such as these,” said Streets. The shelter stayed open until the last temporary resident could safely return home on Thursday afternoon.