Issaquah Community Center offers residents shelter

January 24, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

The mercury dipped and the lights turned dark as crews raced to restore power across the region.

The city and the American Red Cross partnered to turn the Issaquah Community Center into a 24-hour shelter amid a dayslong blackout. The refuge opened late Jan. 19, after a rare ice storm sent tree limbs tumbling to earth and snow lingered on roadways.

Barry Morgan (right), American Red Cross volunteer, registers the 100th client at the Issaquah Community Center at 3 p.m. Jan. 20 for a place to stay. Volunteer Stan McKenzie and service dog Katsu are at left. By Greg Farrar

The shelter provided 35 shelter nights — or number of overnight stays — to residents from Issaquah and other Eastside communities. Teams at the shelter handled 244 drop-in visits, and served 778 snacks and meals to clients.

Some shelter clients spread out on cots for the night. Other people stopped in for a hot snack or a hotter shower. The shelter offered some a chance to unwind after stressful days in powerless residences.

“They were feeling cooped up in the house with the kids in particular,” said Stephanie Schoo, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization. “It was good to have a warm, safe place for the kids to get to play and sprawl out.”

City officials opened the Emergency Operations Center for brief stints, in part to coordinate shelter setup and operations.

The shelter, and others in King County, shut down as crews restored power to communities, temperatures ticked upward and people headed home. Officials closed the community center shelter Jan. 22.

“We’re are extremely grateful to the volunteers who are working in our shelters around the clock to provide a warm place for people affected by the winter storm,” Randy Hutson, regional CEO of American Red Cross Western Washington Chapters, said in a statement released Jan. 21. “We are also thankful to our government and community partners that have rallied to help the community.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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