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Emergency shelter offers heat, diversion

As many as 100 Mercer Islanders found warmth, hot food and respite at West Mercer Elementary’s emergency shelter last Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Staffed by the City, the emergency center became the Island’s 24-hour drop-in for those seeking warmth, light, storm recovery updates — and neighbors with whom to exchange stories.

“It was fun to watch walk-ins relax some as they first got warm, then had a warm drink, charge their cell phones or contact families by e-mail to let everyone know they were okay,” said Steve Kiner, school custodian who spent four days and three nights at the center.

While nobody actually used the cots to sleep over, many came for double-feature movies and popcorn, (the showings included “Chicken Little,” “XMen2,” “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” and the Chronicles of Narnia). Others came to to “WIKI” their computers, said shelter operators. Monday afternoon several drop-ins worked on computers, read magazines, played checkers and chatted. A couple of the Island’s volunteer HAM radio operators, Dave Cook and Wayne Gardner, relayed calls to the City and the command officer brought in the latest power updates.

Normally, the Community Center at Mercer View is the designated emergency gathering spot, said park department staffer Yvonne Defty. However, it too was without heat, so West Mercer school had “everything but a hot shower,” said Kiner. Drop-in day services were offered at the CCMV and also at the Stroum Jewish Community Center, where hot showers even were available on Monday for a time. The JCC had to shut down on Monday afternoon, however, when its boiler shut down.

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