Emergency shelter is ready and needs volunteers
By all accounts, back in the summer of 2011, the need for an emergency shelter in Wilton was considered to be slim. Then Tropical Storm Irene came roaring through and Wilton’s emergency shelter opened and stayed open for three days. The first night 14 people took advantage.
A few months later a freak snowstorm in October — dubbed Alfred — caused extensive power outages and the shelter opened again. This time for five nights, with 21 people taking cover at first.
Last August Superstorm Sandy caused perhaps the most extensive damage of all and again, 21 people sought out the emergency shelter when it opened, this time for six days.
The shelter, originally at Miller-Driscoll School, is now at Comstock Community Center.
“The physical plant is better in most ways,” said T.G. Rawlins, director of operations for CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), which runs the shelter with the Department of Social Services.
“Miller-Driscoll is a maze. In terms of layout, Comstock is more efficient. And with the installation of a generator, that has allowed us to use it.” A generator was installed the end of last summer.
The length of the power outages caused by these storms — for some people more than a week — has made manning the shelter difficult as volunteers have to take time to tend to personal needs.
Thus, Catherine Pierce, director of social services, is seeking volunteers to help keep the shelter open when needed.
“In the beginning, we are open all day and night,” she said of the shelter. “Later we close at 9 a.m. and open at 5 p.m.” While the number of people seeking shelter from a storm is greatest the first night or two, enough people need a place to stay for an extended period to keep the shelter open multiple nights.
“In the evening we need help signing people in, help with serving dinner,” she added. “We also need people to stay over at night. That’s the hardest part.”
Ms. Pierce said they would especially “like to have a nurse. If we have someone with a medical issue, that would be reassuring.
“We’ve never had a medical crisis, but we have called Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County to evaluate someone.
“Mostly we have healthy people who need a place to sleep,” she said. “During a storm it’s either too cold or too scary to stay home.” Ages range from babies to people in their 90s.
Although there is a shower and small kitchen at Comstock, meals are usually brought in from the Village Market, Ms. Pierce said, “and we encourage people to use the Y’s showers, which are bigger and better.”
Comstock also has wi-fi and people are welcome to visit during the day to charge their electronic devices during a power outage.
Potential volunteers do not need to join CERT to help out, although they are welcome to do so. Volunteers will be screened and there will be a training requirement, which Ms. Pierce will oversee.
“Whether we have 21 people or four, it’s still staff-intensive,” she said. And, “it’s a great opportunity to help your neighbors.”
Anyone interested in volunteering may call Ms. Pierce at 203-834-6238.