Winter warm up station provides warmth during cold seasons

Frostbite and hypothermia are two of the most common injuries people suffer from not properly protecting themselves during cold seasons and conditions.

Cold conditions include anything that is going to predispose you to having injury from cold weather, said Dr. Lisa Dannemiller, the interim chief university physician at DeWeese Health Center.

Such conditions can include being in cold water or being outside when the weather or wind chill is below freezing.

“We have had some very mild cases of frostbite,” Dannemiller said. “Luckily, since I’ve been here, we haven’t had anybody that’s suffered from hypothermia.”

Frostbite happens when parts of the skin are exposed to cold conditions for an extended period of time without proper protection, like clothing. Symptoms of mild frostbite include skin that feels tingly, painful and appears to be turning white, Dannemiller said.

“For more severe frostbite, [you’re] going to see blisters,” Dannemiller said. “Severe frostbite is when the skin is gangrenous, which it almost looks like it’s black and means total tissue loss.”

This can happen to any part of the body, but commonly affects the face, ears, nose and fingers, she said.

“Hypothermia means that your core temperature is below normal, which is 98.6 degrees,” Dannemiller said. “Mild hypothermia starts at 95 and goes down to 90. Moderate is from 90 to 72 and severe is less than 82.”

Hypothermia can cause shivering and sometimes mental status changes where the person can’t think clearly.

In an attempt to help prevent students from getting these injuries, leaders from the Women’s Center, Office of Sustainability and Community Engaged Learning came together to start the Winter Warm Up Station, a coat rack located in the Women’s Center that provides coats and other winter wear for anyone that needs warm clothing.

“We have a heavy-duty clothing rack and as the coats come in, we sort through them and figure out what we can use,” Director of the Women’s Center Cassandra Pegg-Kirby said. 

The Winter Warm Up Station takes in any winter clothing that is given, not just coats. 

“We have the rack all the time,” Pegg-Kirby said. “But also, tucked away in the pantry area, there are some shelves where we have bins of hats, scarves, blankets, socks, boots and things like that.”

The Winter Warm Up Station also receives children’s snow pants and coats, for student parents who struggle with keeping their families warm.

The Winter Warm Up Station receives its coats and other winter wear from donations, mainly through the Winter Coat and Clothing Drive, also started by all three departments. 

Leah Graham, outreach and recycling coordinator from the Office of Sustainability, is the one responsible for most of the “logistics” of this drive, Sustainability Manager Melanie Knowles said.

“(She) really took it and ran with it, modeling it off of the Throw and Go program that has been going on for over a decade,” Knowles said.

The Throw and Go program collects discarded clothing from students in bins located in residence halls from spring break to move-out. The clothing collected from this program goes to the Phyllis Zumkehr Portage County Clothing Center, Knowles said. 

Similarly, the Winter Coat and Clothing Drive strategically places bins across campus, collecting discarded winter wear from anyone who can spare it. The clothing collected is distributed between the Women’s Center and the Phyllis Zumkehr Portage County Clothing Center, Knowles said.

“It’s being a good community member,” Pegg-Kirby said. “You look at what you have and think, what can I do to share what I have? If I’ve got six coats in my closet, I need to be giving five of those to other people who can use them.”

Not only does this help our community, but it helps our environment. By reusing clothing, we are able to put these materials to use and keep more things out of landfills, Knowles said.

“In order for people to be well and healthy and contribute their unique perspective to everything, they need to be fed, warm, safe and dry,” Knowles said. “If this is a way to make sure that our whole community can continue to be involved, that’s what you do.”

Contact Becca Sagaris at [email protected].