Island needs accessible shelter | Senior Outlook | Dec. 10

Our memorable Thanksgiving week of below freezing weather and a long power outage brought front and center the lack of warm shelter sites on Bainbridge Island. I was reminded of the old saying, “Great minds think alike” when I read the Bainbridge Review editorial for Friday, Nov. 26.

I was struck by how closely what I was reading mirrored an e-mail I had received from Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center board member and chairperson of the center’s Marketing Committee, Sheila Curwen.

The Review editorial began with the caution that islanders “shouldn’t let their guards down because more inclement weather is expected during the next few months.”

It ended with the caution that “Bainbridge Island needs to be prepared, beginning with having more than one “warming station” available for people who need relief from the freezing temperatures when there are power outages.”

Preceding the editorial was Curwen’s group e-mail, “An Idea to Ponder,” which met with unanimous, energized approval from those who received it. The e-mail reads as follows:

“After spending three days in an extremely cold apartment building where there are several frail older folks, it became all that more evident to me that we have a need for a shelter, an accessible shelter, in downtown Winslow. This was to be a part of our [Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center] new building site, I know, but because of the obvious need, I am certain that we cannot wait on this.

“Is there not a way that monies could be raised to provide an alternative heating source for our community center area?

Fire Station 21 did have a warming center during the storm and the cold, but they did not have a facility for people to stay there overnight.”

Curwen’s e-mails always end with a quotation from John Kenneth Galbraith, “I want to change things. I want to see things happen. I don’t want just to talk about them.” I can’t think of another e-mail where this statement was more apt.

Bainbridge residents need to begin changing things now, making things happen. The time for talking about shelters is over. One of the original concepts for the new senior community center that was planned back when the city thought it had money was that it would serve as a shelter during natural disasters or other calamities.

City monies can no longer do the whole job, but we are an island of many people and if we all pitch in and do our part, things can happen. We are a generous and caring community.

Donations large and small can accomplish wonders. Assistance from the city and other island entities will be needed too, but with all of us working together, a warm center open day and night, can become an island reality.

The Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center is ready to do its part, as evidenced by some of the replies to Curwen’s e-mail. Here are just a few:

• “Thank you, Sheila for bringing this to us at such an appropriate time. I definitely support having a place where people can be during power outages to keep warm. ...Helping to get people to warm places is an issue. Regulations that say that homes where elderly people live need to have a heat source during power outages is another issue as well.”

• “I cannot agree with you more, Sheila. This needs to be brainstormed through BISCC and emergency services. Bob and I spoke to two women today... who were living in 40-degree condos for three days. This is so wrong.”

• “Great idea, Sheila.  I agree with all the previous comments and would be more than willing to help figure out a fundraising campaign.  My power was out for 48 hours – even with a fire going all day, it got down to 40 degrees on Tuesday night.”

And those are just a few. My personal vision blends with all of the above. The Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center is an excellent place to start.

The complex includes two kitchens, a larger central space in the Commons and other smaller areas that adjoin the Commons on each side.

Add a generator and some cots or bedding for the many more frail elderly who live in the surrounding area and need a warm place to spend the night and Bainbridge has an emergency shelter.

So let’s get started. A long, cold winter lies ahead.

Marcia Rudoff writes a monthly column for the Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center.

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