Storm Stories

City, community come together to serve at Warming Center

City officials made the decision at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, to open a Warming Center at the Baca Center. When employees arrived shortly thereafter to get it ready, they discovered burst pipes and major water leak – you can read that Storm Story here – before it opened later that afternoon.

The Warming Center story is as much about the community coming together with city workers to respond to the needs of residents hardest hit by the winter weather and power outages. The Warming Center was just that – not a temporary shelter with bedding and food, but a place to warm up and recharge electronic devices. Still, one of our custodians heard that one of the first families to arrive didn’t have any food, so she brought some with her when she reported to work. 

The Parks and Recreation staff, along with Police and Fire personnel, did their best to make folks feel welcome. They printed out pages from coloring books to give kids an activity and played cartoons on the TV in the Baca music room. Police officers carried in an elderly woman who had broken her foot.  

All the while, Thornton said they did their best to adhere to the facility’s COVID-19 protocols to keep guests safe as well as warm. 

Doing whatever it takes is part of the culture Director Rick Atkins has built at Parks and Recreation, Thornton said. There was no shortage of employees willing to come in – even though many were dealing with lost power and broken pipes at their homes (including Thornton) – and help out in any way possible. Thornton recalled seeing Atkins using a squeegee to get water out of the dining room, which reflected the do-whatever-it-takes message that he preaches at monthly team meetings. Thornton shares about walking the talk: 


Thornton was quick to acknowledge the great attitude of other City employees as well, in particular Michael “Red” Andrews of the General Services team 

Rick Atkins
Jessica Thornton
Michael “Red” Andrews

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