Winter Sanctuary

MOUNT VERNON --  When the Winter Sanctuary homeless shelter opens for the season Nov. 1, it will depend on a cadre of volunteers to operate it for the next six months.

There is no specific requirement to be a volunteer other than having a welcoming, non-judgmental attitude toward the guests, said Ann Marie Wiley, volunteer coordinator for the shelter.

Both the men’s and women’s sides of the shelter require volunteers for morning and evening shifts, seven days a week.

homeless shelter

A guest at the Winter Sanctuary homeless shelter receives a free haircut.

“A good volunteer is someone who has a heart for working with the homeless population,” she said. “They look forward to having the opportunity to serve as a mentor to our guests.”

Volunteering at the Winter Sanctuary homeless shelter provides Josie Swartzentruber with a fulfilling activity outside her paid job.

Swartzentruber has volunteered for the evening shift on the women’s side of the shelter for several years. She likes to work that shift because it gives her the most opportunity to relate to guests.

“The important thing is being there when they want to open up and share,” she said. “These ladies need a lot of love and support. It’s a good opportunity to share God’s love.”

Both shelters, located at 401 W. Vine St., open for the season Nov. 1 and close May 1. There are three shifts daily for which volunteers are needed on both the men’s and women’s side: 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.; 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Volunteers can work shifts on a weekly, every-other-week, or monthly basis, or serve as substitutes.

Anyone interested in volunteering is invited to attend an information/training session at the shelter at one of the following times: 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Oct. 5; noon on Oct. 9.; noon on Oct. 16; and 9 a.m. and noon on Oct. 19.

Volunteers play an important role in helping guests get back on their feet. One such case was a woman who was fighting drug addiction and needed a safe place to stay. In a questionnaire she filled out after her stay, she said the shelter’s staff and volunteers were like a second family to her who cared about her welfare and looked after her.

“If I needed help or someone to talk to, the ladies here always had an ear to lend and advice and love to give,” she said. “This place has given me hope again.”

For more information, phone the homeless shelter at (740) 392-9277 or e-mail it at

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