CRESTVIEW — Freezing temperatures in North Okaloosa County this week have increased the need for various items at a local homeless shelter.

Ann Sprague of the Crestview Area Shelter for the Homeless said the organization has a range of needs.

"We can use more financial help to pay for the electric bill, because it's going to be huge," she said. "We could always use more blankets and hoodies, for men and women."

She described conditions as "jam-packed four nights a week at Helping Hands." The organization usually has about 14 people who use the shelter during regular winter months, but with the freezing temperatures, they had 15 to 20 a night.

"If we get any more people I don't know what we're going to do with them," Sprague said.

She mentioned her gratitude to First United Methodist Church, which donated the Helping Hands building at 428 McLaughlin St. in Crestview, and to the various people and organizations that have made contributions.

"Okaloosa County has been very generous to provide us with disaster aid kits and blankets, and a lot of people in the community have come forward with clothing donations, food and blankets from Okaloosa County (and surrounding areas). Anderson Columbia came with quite a few blankets," Sprague said.

Area Girl Scouts and the Woodlawn Baptist Church ladies group brought in knitted hats, gloves and other accessories.

"It's pretty nice when somebody walks in and their hands are ice cold and we're able to give them gloves, jackets and hats," Sprague said.

The organization also welcomes food donations. Soups and casseroles have been the main dishes being served. Homemade or store-bought items are wanted, as are countless cups of coffee brewed and served each day.

Sprague said, "And of course, you know people like their sweets, cookies and cakes and things like that.

"For people who don't have time to make something, we go through five gallons of tea in a day. If they want to bring coffee or tea, that would be wonderful. I don't know how many cups of coffee we've been going through."

Sprague invites people who are homeless in North Okaloosa County to participate in the shelter's annual point in time count. Volunteers will assist attendees with surveys for the count, and provide hair cuts and basic medical screenings.

The count is 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 26 at the First Presbyterian Church soup kitchen, 492 N. Ferdon Blvd., Crestview, and then from 1-5 p.m. the same day at the Helping Hands house, located at 428 McLaughlin Ave., Crestview.

Volunteers are also needed for the event to pick up pizzas and bring them to HH, and to help people fill out the surveys.

Information from the count will be turned in to the federal government for grant funding.

"This helps us get our grant money for doctor visits, medicine (and) IDs," Sprague said.


For more information, contact Ann Sprague, with Crestview Area Shelter for the Homeless, at 826-1770.