As dangerously-cold weather envelopes Pine Bluff, several agencies are assisting people in need. Pine Bluff recorded a low temperature of 20 degrees on Thursday and a high temperature of 31 degrees. The windchill ranged from 9 degrees to 14 degrees during the morning hours.
The Salvation Army operates a shelter at 501 E. 12th Ave., which will be open beginning 4:30 p.m. each day. Lt. Kyle Madison said the shelter is currently staffed and is accessible in the back half of the building through the parking lot.
“If they want to get into the shelter, the doors open at 4:30 p.m. unless it is below freezing,” Madison said via email. “All that they need to do is go to the shelter doors and tell our staff member they need shelter.”
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington said she spoke with a Salvation Army officer and Pine Bluff Fire Chief Shauwn Howell about directing people to the shelter. She said Pine Bluff police officers and firefighters give blankets to anyone they see in distress.
“If there is an emergency, we would open the convention center,” Washington said. “We have that option. You never know when there will be an emergency. Hopefully we do not get to that point. … This is the same thing we did last year when we had cold weather. “
The Area Agency on Aging of Southeast Arkansas office of community services employee Carolyn Ferguson said her colleagues are calling clients and visiting their homes to deliver food. The agency runs a senior citizen center at 801 E. Eighth Ave. and provides meals and activities.
“Our van drivers go door to door,” Ferguson said. “If the clients do not answer the door, [our drivers] let us know. We have not encountered any problems to my knowledge. We will partner with other agencies as necessary. Neighbor to Neighbor works closely with us.”
Southeast Engravers owner Thom Brown opened an outdoor food pantry in August outside his business at 208 W. Barraque St. in Pine Bluff. He puts food in the outdoor pantry twice per day and welcomes other people to donate food or take food.
“It seems like we have the same number of people but they might be making more trips,” Brown said. “I may see them twice a day. But we also have more people loading the box after we leave at night, filling it up for us.”
His father-in-law Donald Grimm founded Southeast Engravers in 1971 and died earlier this month. In memory of Grimm, Brown asks family members and friends to give food to the pantry. Brown said he sees many generous people including a local dentist who donated ceramic heaters and chemical hand warmers. Brown said he has distributed these items to needy people.
“It is supposed to be deathly cold this weekend,” Brown said.
The Pine Bluff Faith Community Coalition Ministerial Alliance recently collected shoes to donate to needy children.
The Rev. Jesse Turner of the alliance said that no one has called to ask for shelter.
“If someone calls requesting assistance, I am sure there is a church who will provide shelter,” Turner said.
Turner said he will meet with the Rev. Roosevelt Brown of Family Church and the Rev. Renice L. Davis of Bethany Chapel Missionary Church to form a plan of action to serve people in cold weather and in all emergencies.
“If people call, we will take action,” Turner said. “We are driven by the needs of people.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Brown said the forecast for Pine Bluff calls for Friday and Saturday to have high temperatures in the lower 40s and low temperatures in the 20s.
On Saturday night, a cold front will pass through Southern Arkansas. The forecast calls for Sunday to have a high temperature of 28 degrees with a slight chance of snow or sleet. Any precipitation will be light. Sunday night the forecast low is 15 degrees. The forecast high temperature for Monday is 24 degrees with wind chills in the single digits.
Pine Bluff averages a high temperature of 51 degrees and a low temperature of 31 degrees in late December.