WINCHESTER — A local couple that was once homeless donated $1,000 to an organization they say helped them when they had no place to stay.
It took Wayne Daniels, 49, and Cherie Donivan, 47, about two years to save up the 10 crisp $100 bills they gave to the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter, better known as WATTS, on Wednesday night.
“It felt great,” Daniels said about making the donation. “WATTS is like a guardian angel for homeless people.”
Founded in 2009, WATTS is a local nonprofit group that provides free overnight shelter from November to March for 35 people. Area churches take turns hosting the shelter during its 20-week season.
Four years ago, Daniels and Donivan found themselves with no place to live after they were kicked out of their Berryville home because they couldn’t afford it.
“We didn’t know anything about being homeless,” Daniels said.
Initially, they received help from their church, which paid for a one-week motel stay, and from a friend who offered a room, but it was WATTS that sheltered the couple for about four months until they could get back on their feet. Since February 2017, Daniels and Donivan have been in their own apartment in Winchester. A local nonprofit group helped with their first month’s rent and deposit, and a local church donated furnishings.
Saving up $1,000 wasn’t easy for the couple, both of whom are disabled and receive disability benefits. They scrimped and saved to make the donation.
But they said it was something they wanted to do.
“I said if I ever have any money to give, I’m giving it to WATTS,” Daniels said. “When we needed help, they fed us and clothed us and gave us a warm place to sleep. They bent over backwards to help us.”
Robyn Miller, WATT’s interim executive director, said she cried when she received the donation on Wednesday night at Christ Episcopal Church on Boscawen Street, which is hosting WATTS this week.
“They’re just a wonderful success,” Miller said about Daniels and Donivan. She added that they have donated food to WATTS before and helped WATTS guests in other ways.
Miller said the $1,000 from the couple will be “used to help shelter our guests, just like they were sheltered.”
It costs $30 a night to shelter a WATTS guest, which includes meals and transportation to and from the host site, according to Miller. In addition to the 20 faith-based groups that host WATTS, it takes another 50 partner organizations to make the program work, she said.
Miller declined to give the group’s annual operating budget, but said, “We don’t really have a lot of money to operate on a daily basis. Most of our gifts are given to us in kind.”