The warming shelter opened by Holy Family Parish, Fond du Lac, ended its first season of service April 30. During the summer, the shelter will undergo renovations and reopen in November. (Submitted photo)

Fond du Lac’s newest warming shelter is marking the end of its successful first season, and readying for the next.

On Nov. 15, Holy Family Parish opened the shelter on First Street to offer up to 30 single adults experiencing homelessness a place of safety and respite during the winter months. Through April 30, the Holy Family Warming Shelter served 164 individuals and distributed more than 1,000 meals — all of which were donated. A volunteer team of 159 people helped to care for the shelter’s guests, with more than 32 local organizations represented among the volunteers.

“We were blessed to have an incredible team of staff and volunteers at the Holy Family Warming Shelter, all working with the common goal of providing the best care possible to those most in need in our community,” Holy Family Parish Pastor Fr. Ryan Pruess said.

Mark and Karen Krueger, who volunteered throughout the season, said their experience at the Holy Family Warming Shelter was “gratifying,” and helped them gain a “true understanding” of what it means to experience homelessness.

“They are people who appreciate the generosity of having a hot meal and a warm place to sleep. The guests appreciated the kindness and respect shown to them,” the Kruegers said. “By just being able to volunteer and talking to the guests, we got a glimpse to see who they are. They are people with hopes and dreams for the future.”

Volunteer Theresa Lauber had a similar experience, as her time at the shelter opened her eyes to “the need the Fond du Lac community has for those struggling with the hardship of not having a home” as well as how factors like winter weather intensify that struggle.

“This was especially revealed to me during the few days we experienced strong snowstorms and extremely cold weather, when residents had no place to go. Volunteers came together to plan a way to stay open longer to keep residents secure. They were extremely grateful, and you could see the desire to stay safe and warm,” Lauber said.

As shelter employees and volunteers sought to meet clients with support, the community sought to do the same with the shelter. Hundreds of Holy Family Catholic Community parishioners and community members contributed needed items and thousands of dollars in support. Local government, as well as numerous businesses, churches, agencies and organizations assisted by providing funds and knowledge to help bring the warming shelter to fruition.

The Day by Day Shelter in Oshkosh and the St. Katharine Drexel Shelter in Fond du Lac provided guidance on shelter operations that were integral to the Holy Family Warming Shelter’s own operations and development. Throughout the season, organizations offered further guidance and resources, such as the Fond du Lac Family YMCA, which allowed shelter guests to use its showers. In November, St. Katharine Drexel Shelter and the Fond du Lac County United Way partnered with the Holy Family Warming Shelter to raise awareness about homelessness in the area at their Day of Compassion, collecting more than $4,000 for the organizations.

“Without the widespread support we received, we would not have been able to care for the guests of the Holy Family Warming Shelter, let alone open. We are very grateful for everyone, from those who donated to those who volunteered, and who helped in the shelter in some way this season,” Holy Family Director of Human Concerns Erin Cobb said.

As only the most vital renovations were completed on the warming shelter prior to its opening in November, further renovations have begun. The updates will increase the warming shelter’s capacity, improve the facility’s accessibility, and add four on-site bathrooms and showers. These changes will elevate the level of care at the shelter, and further ensure a sense of dignity and respect for those experiencing homelessness.

If you are interested in supporting these renovations, as well as the Holy Family Warming Shelter’s operations, you can donate online at, or send a check with “Warming Shelter” in the memo line to Holy Family Catholic Community, 271 Fourth Street Way, Fond du Lac, WI 54937. For more information, contact the Holy Family Parish Office at 920-921-0580.

Bill and Tammi Burkart served at the shelter every Tuesday, an opportunity which they described as a blessing. One of their favorite parts of the night was volunteering with another pair, with whom they formed a connection. Their interactions led one of the shelter guests to ask if the four volunteers were a family. The Burkarts hoped such a question was emblematic of the feeling of community within the shelter.

“I hope that the guests also felt a connection not only with one another but with us, as well. Maybe our connection created a sense of togetherness and belonging for those residing at the Warming Shelter. Maybe at times we were a Tuesday family,” they said.