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To use or not to use cooling centers in Southwest Michigan

A women wearing a small set of headphones with a mic sits at a white topped desk with blue paneling. She's wearing a sky blue shirt as she turns toward the camera to write something down. In front of her sits a sign, advertising the library as a cooling center, the sign also includes the locations of other cooling centers along with informing the reader of when hydrants will be opened around Kalamazoo. To the left of the sign are three bright orange Kalamazoo Public Library themed water bottles with black caps and black text. To the right of the sign sits a display of advertisement for other KPL programs.
Michael Symonds
The Kalamazoo Public Library's central location last week. All branches of the Kalamazoo Public Library were opened as cooling centers during last week's heat advisory, with other organizations also allowing people to cool off in their facilities.

Some cooling centers in Southwest Michigan saw high traffic during last week’s sweltering heat, but others were quiet.

The downtown branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library was a popular cooling center, according to spokesperson Farrell Howe. She said the branch was especially popular with Kalamazoo’s unhoused community.

“They know, they're welcome to come in here and relax and cool off and whatever we can do to assist them. We're happy to do so.”

The Antwerp Sunshine Library in Mattawan also saw people turn out after parts of town lost power during a storm. With no power and high heat, residents flocked to the few places that still had power.

Amanda White is with the library. She said it saw a flood of residents after the outage.

“It was a lot of adults who worked from home. And they came in and they utilized all of our spaces to charge their devices and to just get out of the heat.”

But some apparently didn’t see much use in going to a cooling center. Chapel Hill Missionary Church acted as a cooling center for Union, a small community in Cass County.

Pastor Jeffrey Snider said the church spread the word on Facebook, but no one came, and that isn’t anything new.

Snider said since the church started opening its doors during heat events several years ago, only one person has come to cool off.

“The folks out in the country, they tend to take care of their own. There's a lot of family in the area, so they take care of their own, or they just muddle through it on their own.”

Snider said he hopes to reach more people who may need the center during future heat waves, perhaps through pamphlets.

The Bronson Wellness Center in South Haven said it had a similar experience to Chapel Hill Missionary Church, with few people using it as a cooling center during the heat wave.

Michael Symonds reports for WMUK through the Report for America national service program.

Report for America national service program corps member Michael Symonds joined WMUK’s staff in 2023. He covers the “rural meets metro” beat, reporting stories that link seemingly disparate parts of Southwest Michigan.