Homelessness is a Problem in Winchester, Frederick County & Clarke County

The WATTS program is driven by our mission to offer a safe haven for homeless and at-risk individuals in the Winchester, VA region during the cold weather months. Direct program support for WATTS is dependent on the generosity of individuals, corporations, foundations, churches, and civic groups. WATTS is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Become a good neighbor in the truest sense by helping WATTS provide shelter to the neediest of our neighbors.

Crisis Averted – WATTS ready to shelter the homeless amid pandemic

After being cleared of yard sale items, this room in the basement of the vacant First United Methodist Church building will be the home of the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) program this season. Shown here is Robyn Miller, WATTS executive director, and Sean Devolites, pastor at First United Methodist Church. Photo by JEFF TAYLOR/ THE WINCHESTER STAR
First United Methodist Church on North Braddock Street, which is vacant and for sale, will be the home of the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter ( WATTS) program this season ? as long as the church building isn't sold. This means WATTS clients will not have change locations each week as they have previously done. Photo by JEFF TAYLOR/ THE WINCHESTER STAR

WINCHESTER — When winter rolls into the Northern Shenandoah Valley, the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter ( WATTS) can be the difference between life and death.

Each year, the nonprofit WATTS organization partners with area churches to offer overnight shelter for homeless people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets in frigid temperatures. COVID-19 nearly shelved the program this year, though, because none of the participating churches could offer a large enough space for up to 35 homeless clients to get a good night’s sleep while remaining socially distanced.

At the last second, serendipity intervened.

The board and clergy of First United Methodist Church in downtown Winchester happened to have an empty building available, and it happened to be big enough to accommodate 35 guests plus an assortment of volunteers. That means WATTS will open on time for its 2020-21 winter season, which begins on Nov. 7.

“If this hadn’t come through, we would have been in trouble,” WATTS Executive Director Robyn Miller said on Monday.

Here’s how it happened.

Last October, First United Methodist Church decided to sell its building at 308 N. Braddock St. and build a new worship facility on 16.2 acres it owns at 362 Apple Pie Ridge Road in Frederick County.

The final church service at the Braddock Street location was held on March 1. Since then, First United Methodist officials have been waiting for someone to buy the building, which is listed for sale for $1,545,595. Proceeds will be used to build a new church on Apple Pie Ridge Road. Until then, the congregation has been holding worship services online and, when the weather cooperates, in an outdoor picnic shelter.

Meanwhile, WATTS was beginning to fear it would not be able to offer a full-size shelter, or perhaps any shelter at all this winter.

Then First United Methodist Church Pastor Sean Devolites called Miller with an offer she couldn’t refuse.

No buyer of the former church building had yet come forward, Devolites said, and the large social hall in its basement was mostly empty, so WATTS was welcome to use the facility until its sheltering season ends on March 27 or the property is sold, whichever comes first.

“Everyone knows where First United Methodist is, so it will be easy for them to find,” Miller said.

She said her top priority is keeping WATTS clients and volunteers healthy, so everyone will have their temperatures checked and be asked a series of wellness questions each time they arrive at the shelter.

“If they have a temperature and answer yes to any of those questions, they’ll be sent to Valley Health,” Miller said. “We also have a sick room we can put them in for the night to make sure everything’s OK.”

The shelter will operate every day from 7 p. m. to 7 a. m. beginning Nov. 7. Clients will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.

During the days, Miller said WATTS volunteers and guests will thoroughly clean and sanitize the First United Methodist shelter to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Normally, WATTS rotates shelter locations among its partner churches from week to week. Not only does that require a lot of tear- down, moving and setup, it also means buses must be contracted to drive homeless people to any churches that are not within walking distance of Old Town.

“The churches we would have gone to are still participating. They’ll just be hosting out of this location,” Miller said. “It’s nice to have one spot.”

The First United Methodist social hall is ideal. Not only is it big enough for the full- size WATTS program, it also negates the need for commuter buses and is connected to a commercial-grade kitchen where volunteers can prepare breakfast and dinner for the WATTS clients each day. There are bathrooms throughout the building, and a special trailer will be brought in so guests can shower.

Miller said she is currently working with Winchester Rescue Mission to find a site for a permanent shelter.

“We’re looking for a location that we can hopefully have a day and night shelter together in one spot,” she said. “That would allow us to extend our season.”

Meanwhile, First United Methodist is proceeding with efforts to sell its property. If a buyer steps up and wants WATTS to leave before its season ends on March 27, the nonprofit will have to go, and Miller said she’s not sure where the shelter could end up.

“We’ll help as long as we can,” Devolites said. “We’re really excited to work together.”

To learn more about WATTS or to volunteer to assist at its shelter this season, visit watts-homelessshelter.org.

Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com


Click here for the original Winchester Star Article.

Watts Receives Grant From United Way NSV For $10,000

United Way


Robyn Miller, WATTS, Executive Director
execdirector@watts-homelessshelter.org, 540-514-7128

Winchester, Virginia (5/20/20) – WATTS is pleased to announce it has received a $10,000 grant from the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley. These funds will support the safe, reliable transportation to and from warm, safe, overnight cold weather shelter.

WATTS has received a grant to support safe, reliable bus transportation to homeless guests to temporary shelter locations that are beyond walking distance from Winchester’s downtown. In the 2020-2021 shelter season, WATTS will provide transportation in the evening and morning to 14 shelters between our bus stop in downtown Winchester and shelters operated by our hosts in Frederick and Clarke Counties and the City of Winchester. Providing transportation allows WATTS to partner with host organizations outside downtown Winchester, thereby extending the number of weeks during the cold weather WATTS is able to provide shelter and respite for homeless people in our community.

“WATTS is eternally grateful for the support we received from the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley. This funding will allow WATTS to continue providing reliable transportation of our homeless guests.” stated Laurel Coleman, President of WATTS, “COVID-19 has impacted WATTS and our ability to fundraise, therefore, this grant is especially appreciated during these uncertain times. God Bless the United Way!”

United Way NSV awards annual grants through a competitive application and Fund Distribution review process that is entirely completely by community volunteers. This year volunteers reviewed funding applications, undertook site visits and recommended grant funding to focus on priority human care needs as defined by United Way’s Community Needs Assessment.

About United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley: Since 1946 the United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley has worked to impact the community human care needs that matter most to the people of Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah Counties and the City of Winchester. United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley convenes the people and organizations necessary to create solutions to our region’s most pressing challenges and collaborates with effective partners. United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley seeks to serve as the catalyst for community change by supporting over 42 partner agencies in the areas of Financial Stability, Health and Education. For more information visit our website www.unitedwaynsv.org. Follow us on Twitter @UWNSV.

Businessman gives WATTS $50,000 donation toward new shelter

J.J. Smith, at center, has pledged $50,000 for every $100,000 raised by organizers of the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) program to help finance a permanent home. He recently made his first donation to the program. At left is Robyn Miller, interim executive director of WATTS. At right is Laurel Coleman, president of WATTS. Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Local businessman J.J. Smith recently donated $50,000 to the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) to help the nonprofit program raise money for a permanent shelter.
Smith, the president and CEO of Valley Proteins, told WATTS he would give them $50,000 for every $100,000 the group raises toward establishing a permanent shelter, up to $200,000. WATTS received its first $50,000 check from Smith on Jan. 31.

“It’s an extraordinary blessing for WATTS to realize what he is committing to us,” said Laurel Coleman, president of the WATTS board of directors. “We are just so eternally grateful for his generosity.”

Started in 2009, WATTS provides up to 35 homeless adults with overnight shelter for a 20-week period from November to March. WATTS participants are served a hot dinner, breakfast and the option of a bagged lunch. Area churches and other groups take turns hosting the program for one week at a time. The current session ends March 28.

Coleman said that Smith reached out to her after longtime WATTS leader Marion Schottelkorb died in July. WATTS is trying to fulfill Schottelkorb’s vision of establishing a permanent shelter that can hold more people.
“I know the churches were going together and taking their turns in providing shelter in the winter,” Smith said. “And I think we as a community need a more permanent option. So I figured I could and I wanted to help with the fundraising.”

Coleman said WATTS was able to raise $100,000 through donations and several fundraising events.
WATTS Interim Executive Director Robyn Miller said the cost of a permanent shelter has not yet been determined since WATTS still needs to determine if it will need to purchase land and construct a new building or renovate an existing building.

“There are too many variables at this point,” she said. 

Coleman said that the WATTS board of directors is currently exploring all options for the new shelter and wants to ensure it has the finances to complete the project.

“Our thought is we want to make sure once we start down the path, we can go forward,” Coleman said. “We want to be able to utilize the funds properly and know that we have a significant amount to where there isn’t going to be a roadblock for us. Once we start, we want to see it through completion.”

Donations for WATTS can be made at PO Box 2936 Winchester, VA 22604 or online at watts-homelessshelter.org. For more information about WATTS contact call 540-327-5431 or email execdirector@watts-homelessshelter.org.

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com
Click here for the original article.


Former WATTS clients pay it forward

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.”

— Contact Cynthia Cather Burton at cburton@winchesterstar.com
Click here for the original article.

A night of music to benefit WATTS

WINCHESTER — Enjoy an evening of live music and help out a local nonprofit during the Music with a Mission concert on Thursday night.

Four bands will play to help out the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS). Working with local churches, WATTS provides safe, temporary, overnight shelter to the homeless from November to March.

The concert takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Bright Box, 15 N. Loudoun St. in downtown Winchester.

Performing that night are: Lowly Souls (Southern rock); The Tribe (funk/soul/R&B); Oceans in Heaven (indie-pop); a little too serious (indie-folk).

Tickets and reservations aren’t necessary. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.

Food and drink available are purchase.


Click here for the original Winchester Star article.

New WATTS executive director continues to seek permanent location

Robyn Miller, the new interim executive director of WATTS (Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter) Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Robyn Miller, interim executive director for the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS), said the charity is “constantly” working on several leads for a permanent, year-round location to shelter the area’s homeless.

“Housing in Winchester just gets more and more expensive,” Miller said on Tuesday. “We’re displacing people all the time.”

WATTS, a nonprofit group, partners with local faith-based organization to provide overnight shelter to people who need a warm place to sleep when the weather turns cold. The program rotates through various churches, a week at a time, for 20 weeks.

Miller, a WATTS board member and former volunteer, recently succeeded Marion Schottelkorb, who died last month. Miller is acting as interim executive director until Jan. 1, at which time she will solidify her position.

She said she would like to be the director that sees “Marion’s vision” of a permanent, 365-day-a-year shelter become a reality.

Progress is being made on that vision, Miller said. The Salvation Army has offered to donate some land, while several churches have offered buildings, she said.

Miller declined to say exactly where the land and buildings are because WATTS’ expansion committee is still studying each site, she said. But it is a primary project the 15-member board is undertaking.

There are more immediate concerns, Miller said. Fundraising is a constant worry, as it takes $130,000 to put on the 20 weeks of programming. The WATTS program will begin Nov. 9.

Expenses include the bus WATTS owns, medical supplies and pay for the night watchmen who stay with the 35 sheltered guests.

Also, First United Methodist Church is moving from downtown, so that location will not be available this year, Miller said. The board has to find another location for that week.

Miller said she would also like to chip away at the stigma of homelessness. While some of the WATTS guests are people with mental illnesses and physical disabilities, more than half of them are people who work jobs in construction or restaurants, she said.

“They go to work every day,” she said, adding that the competition and cost of housing in the area can be so intense that working people cannot afford a place to live.

A member of Braddock Street United Methodist Church. Miller said she was looking for a volunteer opportunity and ended up helping when Braddock Street UMC hosted WATTS. She became a board member about a year ago, she said.

Miller is the only full-time employee of WATTS. Her salary is $52,000, she said.

WATTS can only take 35 people, Miller said. They frequently have to turn people away “and it’s awful.”

She said she was immediately enamored with WATTS’ mission when she started volunteering and hopes to continue maintaining and growing the organization.

“It’s just a meal, a bed and fellowship,” she said. “And it makes such a huge difference in the community.”

— Contact Onofrio Castiglia at ocastiglia@winchesterstar.com
Click here for the original Winchester Star article.

Schottelkorb’s compassion, leadership celebrated at WATTS fundraiser

A portrait of Marion Schottelkorb and her husband, George, was displayed as part of a tribute to her at Saturday night’s fundraiser for Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) at West Oaks Farm Market in Frederick County. Marion Schottelkorb was involved with the nonprofit organization for nine of its 10 years and was its executive director when she died July 6. Photo by BRIAN BREHM/The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The legacy of Marion Schottelkorb loomed large Saturday night at an event she was helping organize when she died last month.

The event was A Wizardly Evening in Oz, a “Wizard of Oz”-themed fundraiser for Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS), the nonprofit overseen by Schottelkorb for nine of its 10 years.

“She was a person of very deep passion and commitment to anything she was involved with,” said Opequon Presbyterian Church Pastor David Witt, who headed the task force of local churches that created WATTS in 2009. “That certainly involved a deep commitment and loyalty to the WATTS ministry.”

WATTS is a program that provides a warm, safe place for homeless people to have a meal and sleep during cold weather, from November to March. Twenty participating churches offer shelter for one week at a time, and shuttle services are provided to transport clients to and from each week’s location. Guests check in at 7 p.m. each night and leave by 7 a.m. each day.

“Our WATTS shelter may be open 20 weeks during the year, but it requires a year-round effort,” Witt said.

Many of the volunteers and donors who keep WATTS running attended Saturday’s banquet at West Oaks Farm Market at 4305 Middle Road in Frederick County. Sue Nixson, who handles marketing for WATTS, said Schottelkorb was key in choosing the location following last year’s fundraiser at the Cloverdale Barn on Cedar Creek Grade.

“We just picked up where she left and continued on with the plans for tonight,” Nixson said on Saturday.

Schottelkorb’s spirit also drove the creation of a new award to honor an individual for his or her outstanding support of the nonprofit organization. The first Marion Schottelkorb Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Jon Eye, president of Mover Dudes in Winchester.

In announcing the award winner at Saturday’s fundraiser, WATTS board member Robyn Miller said Eye was “truly the man behind the curtain” — a nod to the fictional “Wizard of Oz” character created by author L. Frank Baum.

“Most volunteers have never met him, but he has been to every one of your shelters and is crucial to your success,” Miller said.

Eye and his moving company volunteer each week during WATTS season to transport the nonprofit’s bedding and equipment from church to church.

“If we had to pay a mover to do this, it would cost us $354 a week. That’s over $7,000 a shelter season,” Miller said. “He has done it for free the past three years.”

“It’s easy to do things for the community when you have such an awesome leader like that,” Eye said, referring to Schottelkorb, who died on July 6.

Since WATTS is a faith-based organization, Witt offered a prayer thanking the woman whose compassion and example inspired all of the attendees at Saturday night’s fundraiser.

“Marion has left us a sincere and genuine legacy,” Witt said, “and we pray that we would take that baton and go into the future.”

By BRIAN BREHM The Winchester Star
Click here for the original article.

Longtime WATTS leader Marion Schottelkorb dies


WINCHESTER — Marion Schottelkorb, longtime executive director of Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS), died Saturday at her home, surrounded by family and close friends. She was 72.

She had been battling cancer.

For 10 years, Schottelkorb headed WATTS, joining the nonprofit organization shortly after its founding in 2009.

WATTS provides overnight, cold-weather shelter for homeless people in Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties.

The Rev. David Young, who was Schottelkorb’s pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Frederick County, described her as full of energy and an inspiration to others.

“She’s one of those unsung heroes in our world that not everybody knows of, but once you find what they do, you are amazed at what the human spirit can accomplish,” Young said on Sunday. “That’s what Marion was. She was a breath of fresh air and a whirlwind of strength, energy and compassion.”

Laurel Coleman, president of the WATTS board, said that during the first season of WATTS in 2009, only a handful of churches were willing to offer their facilities to accommodate the homeless. She credits Schottelkorb for increasing awareness about WATTS and getting more people involved in the cause. Due in part to Schottelkorb’s efforts, WATTS now has 20 churches that host homeless people from November to March on a weekly rotation.

“She had such a passion for WATTS and helping people,” Coleman said. “I truly admired that about her and her determination to make a difference.”

Schottelkorb’s responsibilities as executive director included bringing churches together, organizing fundraisers and guiding committees. She envisioned raising enough money so that WATTS could have a permanent location that would enable WATTS to shelter people year-round. Coleman said the organization’s dream is to be able to renovate a location for $50,000 to $100,000.

“As her pastor, I’ve been able to witness her dedication and love and care for those who are homeless and it has been inspiring — not only for our congregation, but for people throughout Winchester,” Young said. “She has brought an earnestness and a real leadership to caring for people in need and working so hard to find a place where WATTS can find a permanent home.”

Young said Schottelkorb was a fun-loving jokester who loved having a good time with her husband George and their friends.

“She loved her New England Patriots,” Young said. “She loved her Lord and she fought to serve her God by serving those who were less fortunate. And she did that with a true, genuine leadership and joy.”

A celebration of life service for Schottelkorb will be held in the near future, but Coleman said arrangements have not been finalized. In lieu of flowers, it was Schottelkorb’s wish that people make donations to WATTS online at watts-homelessshelter.org.

Coleman said WATTS’s 15-member board is trying to figure out how to move forward without Schottelkorb.

“I just feel the community has lost a fearless and tireless supporter for WATTS,” Coleman said. “She fought with grace, humor and passion. Her determination was truly to be admired, and WATTS will continue, but we will definitely be missing an element of enthusiasm and spunk.”

WATTS will host a Wizard of Oz-themed fundraiser on Aug. 10 at West Oaks Farm Market from 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at eventbrite.com/e/2019-watts-the-wizard-tickets-64435841336. Coleman encourages the public to turn out in honor of Schottelkorb.

In addition to her husband, Schottelkorb is survived by daughters Christyn and Tracey and eight grandchildren.

By JOSH JANNEY The Winchester Star
Click here for the original article.

The Wizard of Oz Fundraiser

Join the gang from the Wizard of Oz at this year’s annual fundraiser on August 10 at the West Oaks Farm Market & Event Center from 7 – 10 pm.

We’ll have a magical, wizardly evening in Oz partying with life-sized characters like the heartless Tin Man, the brainless Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy. We’ll dance to rock and roll hits from The Movin’ On Band. Enjoy delicious cuisine from the Fresco Kitchen featuring Glenda the Good Witch chicken pasta and the Wicked Witch of the West pasta primavera… to name a few.

Thank you to our sponsors

Wonderful Wizard

The Gale Guild, Uncle Henry and Auntie Em

The Dorothy Gale Society

The Covenant Witches, Glenda & Almira Gulch

The Endearing Munchkins

For more information on this event, contact event chairperson, Janie Dickens-Bowman, at jdickensbowman@thevillageatorchardridge.org.


An interview with The Valley Today with Janet Michael on The River



An interview with Barry Lee of WINC 92.5 FM for his early morning show, Community Corner.


Here are some scenes from last year’s event at the Cloverdale Barn: