Preparing for a Polar Coaster

Jan 14, 2020

The winter storm this past weekend that brought snow, ice, and colder temperatures to most of The Salvation Army’s Metropolitan Division – Chicagoland, northern Illinois, and northwest Indiana – also brought troubling reminders of the Polar Vortex that had us all in its frozen grip this time last year. It also brought to mind the early forecasts calling for a “polar coaster” this year, with the Farmers’ Almanac predicting especially cold temperatures at the end of January and beginning of February.

Last January, temperatures across the division plunged to negative 45 degrees, with wind chills reaching 60 below. In those extremes, exposed skin can succumb to frostbite in as few as five minutes. While schools, businesses, government offices, and public transportation shut down, The Salvation Army ramped up our outreach to the vulnerable populations we serve every day.

Our mobile feeding and homeless outreach units made 31 stops throughout Chicago daily, serving warm soup and an offer to come to our shelters for treatment or emergency housing. The Freedom Center served as an emergency warming center, offering overnight shelter to more than 60 guests a night during the worst of the cold temperatures.

We also received surprise assistance from Khloe Thompson, an 11-year-old girl in California who had never even seen snow. Already a philanthropist with a ministry to women living in shelters in Los Angeles, Khloe was moved by news coverage on the dangerous temperatures in the Chicago area and The Salvation Army’s efforts to help. She set up a GoFundMe campaign, hoping to raise $10,000, but she wound up receiving nearly $63,000 to give to the Army! “This made me so happy because they will be able to help so many people,” Khloe said.

As we prepare for whatever winter may unleash on us this year – whether a Polar Vortex, Polar Coaster, Snowpocalypse, or other dangerous storm – the Army is poised and ready to offer food, shelter, warm clothing, and whatever assistance our neighbors may need.

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