• Open Letter from Dan McCoig, 2011-2012 President of the WATTS Board of Directors, to the Community.  The letter first appeared in the Winchester Star.

    WATTS -- the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter -- completed its third season on March 12.  The mission of WATTS is to provide safe, overnight, temporary, cold-weather shelter.  Our first year we provided ten weeks of shelter.  Our second year we provided twelve weeks.  This year we provided fifteen weeks.  During the 2011-2012 season WATTS sheltered about 30 persons, adult men and women, each night since it opened on November 28 -- that’s more than 3100 beds, dinners and breakfasts -- and did so for less than $10 per person per night. 

    WATTS was launched to supplement the work of other excellent shelter ministries in our community, namely the Salvation Army and the Rescue Mission.  The idea for WATTS emerged from a group called Faith Based Organizations and took form when the Downtown Clergy Fellowship of Winchester's downtown congregations became involved.

    The idea was and remains a simple one:  there are people sleeping outside on cold winter evenings while warm church buildings sit empty during the overnight hours.  Enough persons of faith found this unacceptable and worked very hard to make WATTS a reality.

    WATTS is a volunteer-intensive, collaborative effort.  The only paid staff at WATTS is our very able and dedicated intake and overnight managers.

    WATTS depends upon generous faith communities, civic groups, local businesses, and individuals to fund its work.  WATTS depends upon congregations to host the shelter.  WATTS also needs congregations, organizations, and individuals to partner with WATTS to provide breakfasts and dinners as well as intake and overnight volunteers.  Community-minded organizations provide WATTS with other essential services -- for example, Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury provides freshly laundered linens, Habitat for Humanity's ReStore transports cots and supplies from host site to host site each Monday when the shelter moves from one location to another, and nurses from the Winchester Medical Center conduct health screenings at intake each evening.  Students from Shenandoah University provided the shelter's evening meal on most Sundays during the season as well as leadership for a voluntary Bible study following the meal.  CCAP served as the transportation depot for the weeks when WATTS was housed in Frederick County and Clarke County congregations. 

    WATTS is truly a community effort.  On behalf of the WATTS board of directors, I wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to each and every WATTS partner.  Everyone together provided not only food and shelter to neighbors in need, but mercy and hope as well.  Thank you very much and God bless you. 

    - Dan McCoig
  • Last night was awesome.  We had 19 students come to serve the WATTS guests, eat with them, and continue to build bonds of friendship through Christ.  The group from First Presbyterian Church was incredible as well.  They had the game on the large screen television and two side televisions as well.  They also brought a lot of party food and Buffalo Wild Wings!  We brought food for the party, but did not use any of it because there was already so much!  I know the guests from WATTS felt like it was a party. Thanks to everyone for making a difference in the lives of our WATTS guests and in the lives of our students from Shenandoah University!  This is the body of Christ! .

    - Dean of Spiritual Life, Director of the Institute for Church Professions at Shenandoah University
  • Now that we have closed out our second week of WATTS (Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter), I am struck with the beauty of the past few weeks. It is as if we get a glimmer of what our world could be or, what heaven might be. The lines between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' begin to blur. Laughter is plentiful and tears are wiped away by others. The barriers of religiosity are erased when those with faith share a sink of dishes. Friendships begin with the introductions, 'I go to 8:30' and 'I go to the late service'. The sometimes painful stories of our past are shared and hopes for the future are dreamed. Our church family and a multitude of new friends greeted 28-35 guests each evening for a total of fourteen evenings. Taking on a second week became such a gift, allowing our relationships to deepen within our church family and with our guests. Thank you to the individual who asked, 'Why don’t we take that extra week?' From that moment on, the expressions of gratitude are endless. Bethel and the endless partners from our community dedicated 1,380 hours of their time over the two weeks. These were hours of enjoyment. Birthdays were celebrated. Pranks were pulled. [Our pastor] shared his yahtzee strut. The meals were incredible. And, we rung in the new year together. 'Thank you' is not enough for your time, your words of encouragement and your financial support. We ask one more thing…praise God for working through us and pray for our former guests as they travel through the winter.

    - Lead Volunteer, Bethel Lutheran Church