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Huntsville warming center expects high electricity bill after cold weather sticks around

HUNTSVILLE Ala. -- When the temperature dropped below 32 degrees last Saturday Grateful Life Community Church opened up their warming shelter. They have been open every day since. "We've had a lot of people come in. We're glad we can keep them warm. We have had a lot of donations; everything we have asked for. The wonderful folks out there have provided," volunteer Ronald Rickard said.

They've received items such as food, clothing and medicine. "When you are doing something like this and you see you are the only church doing it in Huntsville you think we are the only ones. Then you see the outpouring of love and support," Rickard said.

Because it has been so cold, volunteers said this is the longest the warming center has been open. They are expecting their electricity bill to be anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000.

"We use a lot of electricity. We run a very small kitchen, but it does have two ovens and a stove. We are running a very old outdated water heater," Rickard said.

Pastor Sherry  Birney said she opened the warming center because not everyone is welcomed at other shelters around the Rocket City. "They couldn't perhaps go into the shelter that existed because they didn't have ID. That's a common problem now," Birney said.

Birney said it can be hard for the homeless to even get an ID. "It's really difficult because if you stop and think first of all you have to have a birth certificate. Then you have to have a social security card. Some states require a photo ID to a birth certificate," Birney said.

She said transportation can be difficult to find too, so even attempting to get an ID can be near to impossible for the homeless.

Rickard said they can dwell on the negative aspects of running the warming center, but being able to provide to the less fortunate is priceless. "There is always the little things that happen. Someone gets mad at someone and there's some kind of argument. It kind of upsets you, but then you have the one person that comes to you in tears and says this the only hot meal I've had all week," Rickard said.

It's in that moment Rickard said it's worth it.

They plan to keep the warming center open until Sunday. The church has started a GoFundMe to help pay the electricity bill. To learn more visit their Facebook page.