LEWISTON — Volunteers of the Calvary United Methodist Church’s warming center have a mission to provide warmth — even if it means giving the coats off their backs.

“This volunteer gave the coat he wore here to (the homeless person) who didn’t have a coat,” said Pat Hunter Gardiner, chairwoman of the Church’s City Mission program, which runs the warming center. “He said, ‘I can buy a new one.’”

On Sunday, while the warming center was open, Gardiner and volunteer Lucky DiBello were boiling potatoes for Christmas in the church’s kitchen.

This year, the church will open the warming center Christmas Day. It will be open for the homeless, those who are hungry and those who need a safe space from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. A warm meal will be served at noon.

The church had been offering fellowship meals Wednesdays and Sundays for the past 15 years, and, four years ago, started offering the warming center Sundays when greater numbers of hungry people lined up for the fellowship meals following Sunday services, DiBello said.

“There is a lot of hungry people that come,” she said.

The warming center is open from noon to 2 p.m. during cold months.

There is great need Sunday for the warming center, Gardiner said, because the library and other public places are closed.

“Sometimes, they go to the emergency room (to find a warm place),” she said.

Gardiner believes the Christmas warming center might be the only one open locally on a day when most organizations are closed.

“A man was tenting a couple years ago,”Gardiner said, “and he showed us a photo later of his tent that had completely collapsed from the weight of the snow.”

Gardiner got the idea to open a warming center on Christmas Day when she was attending the Trinity Jubilee Center on Thanksgiving. She heard the center would not be open on Christmas because there were not enough volunteers.

Reflecting on her background in restaurant work, Gardiner said, “It was God getting me ready (for serving those in need), and I didn’t know it.”

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Pat Hunter Gardiner, left, and Lucky DiBello dice onions Sunday in the kitchen of the Calvary United Methodist Church in Lewiston as they prepare food to be served at the church’s weekly warming center. Gardiner is chairwoman for the City Mission at the church. On Christmas Day, the church will open its warming center to the homeless and others in need. (Sun Journal photo by Abigail Austin)


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