Truesdale board renews agreement with Agape Food Pantry for warming shelter

By Jack Underwood, Staff Writer
Posted 6/23/24

The board heard a report from Agape Executive Director Michelle Bernth on the shelter.

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Truesdale board renews agreement with Agape Food Pantry for warming shelter


During their June 12 meeting, the Truesdale Board of Aldermen heard from Michelle Bernth, the Executive Director of the Agape Food Pantry. She was there to deliver a report on the use of the MaryLou Center as a warming shelter for the homeless last winter. 

She felt that the warming shelter was largely a success. She said that the shelter was a part of the emergency weather response network across the Tri-County area between Warren, Lincoln and St. Charles Counties. 

The season for the larger network was supposed to be from November to March, although in Truesdale they activated for a shorter period of time due to a lack of agencies that were available to staff the shelter. 

The shelter in Truesdale was prepared for activation during their season from January 1 to February 28 of this year and was opened when nighttime temperatures dropped below a certain threshold. 

While that threshold was reached 11 times during that time frame, part of the agreement with the city of Truesdale was that if the MaryLou Center was rented that evening, the shelter would have to make other arrangements. 

“We ended up opening the shelter four nights, … During those four nights we had 13 guests who stayed overnight in the shelter, so it was used, there was clearly a need for that,” Bernth said. 

The shelter was largely staffed by local agencies when it was open including volunteers from Faith Christian Family Church, the Wright City COmmunity Food Pantry and Emmanuel UCC Church. 

“So it was a success, it was a success, and also a big thank you to these gentlemen and also all who helped tremendously and made it all happen,” Bernth said. 

While those seeking shelter could walk in when the MaryLou Center was open as a warming shelter, there was also a hotline where those in need could call to coordinate with their needs. 

Bernth said there was a process through the hotline where they would determine how they could best help the caller. First they would be assigned to the nearest shelter and then coordinate transportation if necessary. 

One point that was referenced often was that per the federal grant used to build the MaryLou Center, it is not allowed to house animals, and so those with pets were directed to other shelters. 

Along with its use as a community center, the MaryLou Center is also designated as a severe weather shelter for the area. 

Bernth asked that the board renew their agreement for the upcoming winter season and the board acquiesced, although both parties acknowledged there would be terms to work out regarding when the MaryLou Center was rented for evening events. 

Board members and Bernth also discussed making the shelter available in instances of extreme heat during the summer, although Bernth acknowledged that would come with additional logistical difficulties. 

She said that while it would be helpful to offer shelter from extreme heat during the summer months, the shelter would be difficult to staff as the threat from heat is highest during the day, when many volunteers would be unavailable. 

While Bernth said they were also still looking for additional volunteers to staff the shelter this winter, the approval from the board was a step in the right direction to offer the warming shelter again this year. 

Mayor Jerry Cannon was proud that they were able to offer the option in Truesdale and felt that the MaryLou Center was being used for its intended purpose. 

“When we got the grant to build that building, it was for community safety, and this falls into that, so we definitely want to help,” Cannon said. 

Truesdale, Warming Shelter