“Pat, you have to call Charley Harvey right away, one of the Egan centers can’t open tonight and they need a place for people to sleep!”
My wife, Debi Farr, had received a frantic message from Harvey, who runs the Egan Warming Center for St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County–he needed to talk to me. Egan Warming Center, named for US Army and Oregon National Guard Major Tom Egan (see ForumLane article, Tom Egan was a cavalry officer) who died of exposure just before Christmas in 2008, is a group of emergency shelters that open on the coldest nights of the winter each year.
I called Harvey, then St. Vincent’s Director Terry McDonald and found out that one of the regular shelters, a church, could not operate last night, November 21, and the search was on for a one-night alternative.
My next call was to Alicia Hayes, Lane County’s acting administrator, who is also a Eugene 4J School Board Member. We sat in Alex Cuyler’s office and brainstormed what could be done. Listening to Alicia think out loud, bouncing ideas, I realized that something was going to happen to provide emergency shelter. We talked about the Wheeler Pavilion at the Fairgrounds and determined that even though the Holiday Fair was being set up, we could probably come up with a plan. Alicia mentioned Harris Hall and then a light bulb switched on.
“4J has empty schools.” She took over.
I needed to make a quick drive to the First Street Animal Shelter to check on a report that the heating units had broken down, leaving dogs in the cold. While I was sitting in the parking lot, I called Rebecca Larson, program director for St. Vincent.
“We found a spot,” she said. Parker Elementary School would be used for the night.
Thanks to Alicia Hayes, school superintendent Sheldon Burman (and the many others whose names I cannot list) for taking action to make last night just a little more comfortable for men and women and kids who otherwise would have had a long, cold night.