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Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio

MOUNT VERNON - The Winter Sanctuary, Mount Vernon’s homeless shelter, is all about helping people in need. That’s exactly what attracted the shelter’s new volunteer coordinator, Mollie West, to the job.

West, a Mount Vernon native who has an MBA and has worked in human relations for three companies in Central and North Central Ohio, wanted to work somewhere where she could have a more immediate impact on a day-to-day basis.

Homeless coordinator

Mollie West - photo submitted

As volunteer coordinator, she will recruit, train and schedule volunteers for the men’s and women’s shelters and fill in herself if she can’t find a volunteer for a shift.
West’s business and organizational skills will be invaluable in her new job, said Winter Sanctuary Director Heidi Burns.
“If we do not have someone scheduled for that shift, we won’t

be able to open our doors,” Burns said. “Shifts need to be filled seven days a week. West has to be able to handle call offs and changes. Being organized helps.”
The shelters are staffed by volunteers who oversee guests during its operation, Nov. 1- April 1. There are three shifts daily for each side: 6:30 p.m.-10 p.m.; 10 p.m.-6 a.m.; and 6 a.m.-9 a.m.

The volunteer’s role is to mentor and support the guests and keep the shelter safe. This past season, the 85 volunteers who served the shelters included college students, retirees, working people, and a few previously homeless individuals.

There is a need for volunteers willing to fill a particular shift on a regular (usually weekly) basis, as well as for substitutes who fill shifts on an as-needed basis.
To those who may be apprehensive about being alone with homeless people, West’s answer is that the homeless are no different than other people, but merely have certain unmet needs. Rules that govern the conduct of guests and the operation of the shelter help ensure the safety of volunteers as well as guests.
“I hope to enlist volunteers who didn’t know about it before and educate people on what we do,” she said.

For more information on volunteering, contact the shelter at 740-392-9277 or wssheltercoordinator@gmail.com.

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