Greencastle church offers relief from the heat

The Community Grace Church is operating an emergency cooling center

July 21, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER |
  • The Toms family stayed cool reading books at the Community Grace Church emergency cooling center in Greencastle on Thursday. Pictured: Rachelle, 4, Jennifer, Bethany, 5, Doug, and Josiah, 1
By Roxann Miller, Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — With sweltering temperatures expected to grip the area through Saturday, one area church has opened its doors as an emergency cooling center.

The Community Grace Church, 17 N. Washington St. in Greencastle, will operate the center through Saturday.

The church is air-conditioned and will offer overnight accommodations as well as a place for people to stop in and get a break from the oppressive heat. Refreshments also be available at the cooling center.

When Pastor Paul Hutchison's wife, Denise, heard that the heat index could reach 115 degrees, she said she had to do something to help those without air conditioning.

"This kind of heat can be very dangerous. Even if people don't want to stay overnight, they can come in and get out of the heat even for a short time," she said. "When you walk outside it hits you right in the face."

She tries to keep the church/cooling center at 70 degrees.

Dave Donohue, director of the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services, said heat exposure can be deadly.

"It caused 8,015 deaths in the United States from 1979 to 2003. Air-conditioning is the No. 1 protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned," Donohue said.

The church was recently renovated and includes 3,000 square feet of space, air conditioning, bathroom facilities, private rooms for families who require privacy, meals, refreshments, and games, movies and toys for the children.

The facility will be open 24 hours a day through Saturday for all ages, Hutchison said.

The county's emergency services department provided 20 cots, but Hutchison said the center can accommodate 60 people.

Anyone staying overnight is asked to bring sleeping bags, linens and pillows.

For those who need to be picked up and transported to the cooling center, Hutchison said free transportation will be provided by calling the church at 717-830-2260.

"We are to reach out to those hurting and in need, and this is a great way to use our facility in ways to help the community," said Paul Hutchison.

Doug and Jennifer Toms of Greencastle and their children, Bethany, 5, Rachelle, 4 and Josiah, 1, attend church at Community Grace. They'll be spending the night at the church on Thursday.

"We live in an older farmhouse, and there's no air conditioning — only two fans," Jennifer Toms said.

Both Jennifer and Doug Toms are concerned about their children spending the night in a home without air conditioning as temperatures continue to hover near triple digits.

They're hoping other community members take advantage of the cooling center.

"It's safe, it's very comfortable, and there are plenty of things for the kids to do," Jennifer Toms said.

"I would encourage people not to push themselves," Doug Toms said. "Even if you don't want to stay overnight, just stop in to cool off and enjoy a cool drink."


For more information on Community Grace Church's Emergency Cooling Center, call 717-830-2260

For more information on heat related information, contact Franklin County Department of Emergency Services at

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