Saturday afternoon, dozens of people were finding refuge from the heat in what normally serves as the gymnasium of First Assembly of God Church, 1400 W. Washington Center Road.
As of 3 p.m. Saturday, about 65 people were being cared for by The American Red Cross, which opened a shelter in the 30,000-square-foot gymnasium after storms Friday and Saturday knocked out power to almost 80,000 people in Allen County.
Shelter Manager Amy Poffenberger said most of them have come here not because of actual damage their homes suffered in the storms, but because their electricity is out. Many have medical conditions that make them particularly vulnerable in hot weather. Saturday's temperature peaked at 90 degrees at about 2 p.m. at Fort Wayne International Airport, according to National Weather Service records.
For use as a shelter, the gymnasium is divided into two sections. In one, normally lit and active, people eat meals and, this afternoon, watched a movie. In the other section, the light is dim and many people rest on cots. That section, called the dorm, is kept dimly lit to create an atmosphere in which people “can rest or sit quietly with their families,” Poffenberger said.
The Red Cross rules prevent it from accepting some of the help people might be inclined to offer. As an example, any bedding people donate would have to be new or professionally cleaned. Poffenberger suggested that people who want to help should consider volunteering with the Red Cross or donating money to the organization.
One noteworthy donation the Red Cross could accept came from Casa Ristorante Italiano, 4111 Parnell Ave., Poffenberger said. When that restaurant lost its power, it donated perishable food to feed people seeking shelter with the Red Cross.