By Pat Byington
Over the next two weeks through early January Birmingham expects evening temperatures to be at or near freezing. That means, each night when the Birmingham -Jefferson Convention Complex warming station is open, approximately over 250 people need a meal and a warm place to stay.
The city opened the warming station at the BJCC’s South Hall on Monday, Dec. 25. It will remain open through the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 3 for those in need of shelter from the cold. The door to the South Hall faces Ninth Avenue North, which is between Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard and 19th Street North.
On Christmas Day, the BJCC was buzzing. Volunteers served food and handed out cots and blankets. In the midst of the bustling hall, stood Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin who greeted visitors and helped distribute blankets.
Woodfin said he was there because of what the holiday meant.
“For me, Christmas is always about other people,” Woodfin said. “Whether it’s gifts to your family members or in the case we are in now, to provide a warming station for the least of these.”
He added, “we need to find a way to help our homeless community. So this is a no-brainer. It is what we have been talking about since we’ve been in office for three weeks – putting people first.
A generous community
Along with a comfortable to sleep, the warming station feeds dinner to each visitor. Don Lupo, director of the Mayor’s Office of Citizen Assistance, described the warming station’s Heart to Table program which feeds people during cold spells.
“Heart to Table was the brainchild of Marco Morosini and a Leadership Birmingham class from about three years ago,” Lupo said. “Marco, the owner of Silvertron, was a member in that class. He was always supportive of the warming station. At the end of the Leadership class members take on a project. He asked the class – why don’t we adopt the warming station? Let’s go to restaurants and get them to sign up and help feed the people.”
Three years later 25 restaurant participate in the program and enough money has been donated to feed people for five years.
Meals from the restaurants make a difference, Lupo said.
“There is love behind everyone of these meals,” he said. “Look, Marco has his [Silverton] staff out here on Christmas night serving food. That’s the kind of love that goes into this.”
Anticipating cold weather over the next week and half, volunteers are needed to help staff the warming station.
The city has put out a call for volunteers.
Woodfin said, “We need people, not just during Christmas but over the next 7-9 days of this cold snap. When time permits, come on down, help us serve food, bring clothes, give a hug, whatever it is. For me having this many volunteers on Christmas Day and the rest of the week shows some of the best of Birmingham.”
For more information, contact Lupo at 335-4573.