The Brookdale Resource Center, formerly the Brookdale Warming Center, is a place for homeless and vulnerable people in need of a warm and safe space. As the winter months arrive and the temperatures drop, however, the importance of supporting a resource like Brookdale has been made more evident.
“Initially when the Warming Center opened, it was just that: a place for the vulnerable population and those experiencing homelessness to have a place to go for the night, or a few nights to stay warm and safe from the elements," said Executive Director Alison Bender. "As time progressed, we saw that there was a greater need in Macon-Bibb to help people experiencing homelessness to find the resources and navigate the process to move into a better state of living."
Brookdale Resource Center has been one of the many sites that Mercer students frequently volunteer at, especially through MerServe.
“Students have helped serve meals, organize donations, work in the Clothing Closet, organize books, [medical students] perform blood pressure and glucose checks, help with special events, clean the inside and outside of the building, organize donation drives and much more,” Bender said.
One such student, MerServe Special Service Coordinator Lily Dwyer, has volunteered at Brookdale numerous times since it first opened.
“I think that when people talk about Macon in general, a lot of them assume that its community is dangerous, Dwyer said. "I think this offers real insight into the people who experience homelessness [...] I believe eliminating preconceptions about the homeless community is an important experience for each student,” Dwyer said.
While Brookdale is open throughout the year, they also have a specific place for people to go during the colder nights.
Partnering with the Homeless Coalition, they opened an emergency shelter in Brookdale’s gym that runs separately. Any night that the temperature drops below 32 degrees for more than two hours, the emergency shelter will open, with sign-in opening 7-8 p.m. Individuals can stay the night and leave at 7 a.m. when the doors open. Anyone entering the shelter during their hours of intake has the option of completing Brookdale’s pre-intake assessment in case they’d like to seek assistance from the resource center.
“We couldn't do the things we do without volunteers and donations,” Bender said.
While Dwyer hasn’t volunteered through any of the overnight shifts, she’s been at Brookdale very late into the night in the past.
“This center originally was created for the purpose as a temporary warming center and I think that as we transition into colder weather it is integral that the community has a place to go when temperatures become especially unbearable," Dwyer said. "It was created out of this purpose and as colder weather comes back around I think it serves as a good reminder of the goal of what Brookdale hoped to and is achieving."
Bender said that as helpful as volunteers and donations are, reach out to them before donating, as their needs fluctuate frequently.
For students still looking to help, however, Bender said that volunteering is the best way to do so. She recommended that interested students look at the volunteer portal for opportunities, which they have year-round.