Cold snap has Omaha charities preparing for winter weather help

Goodwill seeks spike in demand for cold weather items; Salvation Army looking for donations, volunteers for Winter Night Watch seasonal program.
Cold days are spiking demand for assistance, especially as increased prices hit homes hard.
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 6:59 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Winter slapped many in Omaha in the face Wednesday morning, but the cold winds pack even more of a punch if you have to take the cold without warm shelter.

Every year, Salvation Army officials take help to the streets, working to assist those who are trying to stay warm.

For years, when it gets cold outside, The Salvation Army’s Winter Night Watch program takes to the streets, bringing warm clothing and hot meals to people without shelter — and helping others who might need a little help making ends meet.

“There’s a lot of people, when they find themselves in homelessness are not necessarily going to reach out for help. So it’s absolutely vital that we are going to where they are and offering that help,” said Capt. Kelsie Moreno with The Salvation Army. “We’re seeking them out to make sure that they have a warm meal in their stomach; and then they have what they need to make it through the night. ... And then we’re also able — if they’re willing — to connect them to further resources to improve their situation.”

Last winter, the Winter Night Watch program served around 8,000 meals and handed out more than 6,000 coats and winter items. Already, The Salvation Army is stocking up on warm clothing for this year’s program: socks, coats — anything to help keep people warm.

Officials say a pile of clothes will last maybe two weeks. They expect more people will need help this year.

“We’ve seen inflation hit a lot of people hard this year, and the demand for other services has increased greatly. Our food pantry — the demand for those services are up over 70%, utility assistance is up over 60%, so we know some people are not as well off as they were this time last year.”

It takes an army of volunteers to help make the Winter Night Watch program go. Officials tell 6 News that none of this could happen without people who are willing to help others.

“Those folks who give of their time to ride the trucks in the evening and serve the food, reach out to the people, and make sure they have what they need — it’s an incredible effort that our staff starts planning for quite early, and the response from the community is just fantastic.”

The Salvation Army’s Winter Night Watch program starts Nov. 28 and runs — five nights a week — through March 3.

How to help

If you would like to donate to The Salvation Army’s Winter Night Watch program, go to for details.

You can also visit The Salvation Army’s building on 106th Street and Burt Circle to make a donation in person or bring new or gently used winter clothing. The Winter Night Watch program can also always use more volunteers.

Goodwill officials also encouraged donations at any of their 17 locations in the Omaha-metro area.

Goodwill in Omaha provides training and education to help people with disabilities and other barriers to become independent by helping them find employment. It’s also where many people can save money.

Rising prices on just about everything has people looking everywhere they can to save a few bucks. More people are shopping at Goodwill thrift stores to help save money, and right now the cold weather is driving some people in to find a better deal on a winter coat.

“They go to the store, it’s a $60 coat. Here, you see it is $8,” said Rudy White of Goodwill.

Like any other retail stores, Goodwill also has in-store deals — just look for the signs — to make the good deals even better.

“Every week, our color changes. So this week, we actually have yellow as the color of the week. So, say if it was $7.99, it would be half off of that.”

As the weather takes a brisk turn, Goodwill is seeing more people coming in to find deals on coats and winter clothing.

Goodwill shopper Beth Kelly said the thrift stores help to keep her budget in check, and it helps keep the family warm when they need coats.

“I think the prices of coats are pretty decent,” she said. “I have found some with tags on them, so they were brand new, and they’re not all that expensive.”

Goodwill stores have also become a trendy stop for people looking for vintage wear.

“Yeah, that’s kind of what I like to do is come in and look for things that are maybe a little bit older that are cheaper here — vintage finds are cheaper here. I’ve gotten a couple of really good purses at Goodwill that are older vintage purses that were at a cheaper price.”

Goodwill does what it can to appeal to those looking for such specialty items, too.

“We also do social media on our Instagram page and our Facebook page, encouraging people to post what they find — it’s fun. It’s fun.”

Goodwill officials say they are doing their part to fight inflation and right now, more donations of warm winter items will help a lot of people.

“Not only does it help the community, obviously keeping everybody warm, but it also goes towards our mission, which is to fund our education — the training that we do and finding people jobs.”