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I recently read a Facebook post about people in Norway loving winter. The gist of it was if we could think about it more positively we could all love winter. Yeah, right. Admittedly, there was good advice in the article: get outside as much as possible despite the weather, enjoy being cozy inside, don’t isolate yourself, see the beauty of the season—that sort of thing.

But there are some underlying assumptions that aren’t addressed. For example, what if you don’t have good boots or a warm jacket to wear? What if you don’t have an ‘inside’ to enjoy being cozy in? Or maybe you have a home but it’s not cozy because you don’t have the money to fill your propane tank or pay your electric bill?

At the United Way’s recent winter clothing give away they had almost 400 people in just a few hours’ time. They continue to distribute at the C3 Center (free store) next to Stepping Stones but it can be hit or miss if they have the sizes/items that are most needed.

This week we had someone from the Dept. of Human Services on-site at Stepping Stones to help people apply for government-funded Energy Assistance. There were so many people waiting we had to stop taking names after the first hour because there was no way she could get to everyone.

I’m writing this column from home, looking out the window at a dusting of snow falling and a woodpecker making merry at the suet feeder. I’m lucky — there’s a fire in the fireplace, a cup of coffee by my side. I’m enjoying being cozy. But I still can’t quite love winter today.

Our Winter Haven shelter is supposed to open this weekend. We’re crossing our fingers that it will but we’re still short on volunteers to help staff it. There are people waiting for it to open, currently sleeping in their cars or ‘couch surfing’ if they’re lucky.

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We had a man come in last week seeking shelter who was riding a bike. It was about 20 degrees or so and windy. He had a sweatshirt but no jacket, a hat but no gloves. Maybe if I didn’t see these realities every day I could love winter more?

Ironically, the person who shared the Facebook post about the happy Norwegians is a Winter Haven volunteer. Along with the post she commented, “I resolve to do better this year.” She totally gets the realities of the people we serve at Stepping Stones and she’s still committed to trying to love winter.

This reminds me of another volunteer who posted last year (remember, when we had a bazillion big, heavy snowfalls) “I love to shovel.” I thought she was joking but she wasn’t. So what does she do? As if her own double driveway isn’t enough, she volunteered to also shovel at our Broadway shelter!

You, too, can volunteer, you can still donate winter wear to the United Way, and you can contribute to Stepping Stones’ energy assistance fund which helps people when local government funding is exhausted. Or, no doubt, you can (and do) find dozens of other ways to help.

Thank you for the inspiration friends. There is great need but so many people and organizations are working to make winter better for everyone. So I vow to try to love it, at least a little, too. Join me?

Katherin Dutton is the executive director of Stepping Stones of Dunn County. She can be reached at director@steppingstonesdc.org.

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