People like to talk about the weather, it's chit-chat that fills silences. But when the temperatures begin to drop, the weather is anything but small talk for Angela Proper, executive director of The Pointe drop-in center in Oil City.
"I'm glued to my phone from November on, scrolling AccuWeather channels," Proper said. The Pointe opens an over-night warming center when temperatures dip below 25 degrees.
The warming center offers a place to come in from the cold, perhaps grab a warm shower and even share conversation and food. It is not shelter, there are no beds, but people have places to rest and stay warm.
And recently Proper has been on her phone a lot to make sure the warming center is staffed and open to those in need in all of Venango County and sometimes beyond. Membership to the The Pointe is not required if you are cold and have no place to stay.
"I will post on [social media] whether or not the center will be open," she said, adding that she works with all the local agencies and police to get the word out.
When it is below 25 degrees with or without the windchill, the center is open at the 359 Seneca Street location in Oil City from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. The building stretches between Seneca and Elm with an entrance on Elm across from the PennDOT building.
If there is a need and it's cold, they will even be open during the holidays, like Christmas and New Years.
They try not to have the same meals each and every time and they are dependent on what is available, Proper said.
"Last week [a local club] had made way too much spaghetti for their fundraiser and called to see if we wanted it, so we had spaghetti the next day," Proper said. At one time the cafe averaged approximately 45 meals a day, but it has been less over the past year. And though she is happy with the number of people they serve, she has concerns so aren't taking advantage of what is available. "We don't want people going hungry," she said.
The Pointe also offers membership-based, onsite services, and membership is free. Members use the facility and take part in the programs. They help it running the running of the programs smoothly. "It is for anyone who has a lived mental health situation and is trying to deal with that," she said.
It is considered a drop-in center set up to provide "consumers of the mental health system" peer support and socialization with others who may also be dealing with their own mental health issues.
They provide a place to relax, play games, participate in crafts or group discussions, play pool or simply hangout in a safe place. "Drop-in centers give consumers the opportunity to develop through options that support personal growth. We encourage good socialization skills, support sharing and the freedom to participate without stigma and discrimination. Drop-in centers help keep mental health consumers stabilized in recovery," the take-home flier for The Pointe reads.
The Pointe has served over 600 people a year in the past, but like the lunchtime meals, that number has dropped since COVID. The center served a little over 200 members last year, another concern of Proper. "The mental health issues around here need to be addressed," she insisted. "Mental health issues shouldn't be kept quiet. People whisper about mental health because it is so stigmatized. We all deal with it in different ways."
The Pointe is funded by Venango County, grants and donations. Proper said they are in good shape financially but knows agencies like this and other community and family service organizations are always in need. The community can help through Bridge Builders Foundation or items donated to the center or other community and family organizations.
She realizes The Pointe can't reach everybody, though she wishes it would and is always ready in case she sees someone who looks like they could use a meal and a friend. "I carry MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) in my car," she said.
(To keep up on what is going on at the center and to see whether or not the overnight warming center is open follow The Pointe on Facebook.)