North Corps Heroes-Warming Center

Jan 23, 2024

Adventurous commutes, hard work, and lots of love.

Those were the driving forces behind the success story that happened when The Salvation Army North Corps (24th and Pratt Streets) opened its warming center at a critical time earlier this month.

Salvation Army warming centers are made available during long stretches of extreme winter temperatures. These are typically opened at Corps Community Centers like North Corps and provide safe, heated, welcoming spaces where people in need can seek refuge from the cold. Friday, Jan. 12, was a day tailor-made for warming centers: the windchill dropped already-frigid temperatures well below zero as the Omaha metro awoke to the aftermath of the second snowstorm of the week, with snow drifts reaching several feet high in some locations.

All that meant North Corps would be hard-pressed to open its doors the morning of Jan. 12. Almost all personnel were snowed in and unable to leave their homes. But around midmorning, longtime employee LaJonna Newsome was able to shovel her way out of her house, jump in her SUV, and carefully drive the few blocks down the road to work. A short while later, her colleague, Scotty Harris, donned a snowsuit, ski visor, and winter boots and walked to North Corps from his house. Then, food-service manager Cory Montgomery snow-plowed his way into work in his 4x4 pickup truck. Together, their small group ensured North Corps could open to serve the community in the wake of the storm.

Newsome immediately unlocked the building, confirmed that the lighting and heating systems were functioning, and answered the phones. Harris grabbed a shovel and scooped snow from the front entryway and sidewalks. Montgomery turned on the stoves, thawed out several tubes of frozen beef, and started making meals for North Corps’ community-staple free lunch program.

Their team effort paid off. The first warming center client arrived just as Harris finished clearing snow from the main entrance to the North Corps gym; Harris greeted the client (an unhoused man) as he gratefully stepped inside the warm building. Shortly thereafter, dozens more people—some from a nearby public-housing property—joined him, trudging through the bitter weather into the gym.

In all, 57 people dropped into North Corps that day for lunch—served with a smile by Montgomery and assisted by Harris and Newsome. Many stayed after finishing their meals to enjoy further respite inside the warming center. It was something they were able to experience due to a total team effort by a small, dedicated group of Salvation Army employees.

North Corps normally operates with at least eight employees and officers staffing the building. But Jan. 12 was atypical, with roads impassable and homes snowed in across the Omaha metro. Hours after this giant winter-storm blast threatened a weather-related shutdown of services, three outstanding employees went the distance to show their love for North Corps, ensuring that it stayed open to serve those in need—when they needed it most.

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