CIRCLEVILLE — The Pickaway County Emergency Shelter is open and ready to serve the community.

The shelter, a warming shelter, activates when the temperature falls below 32 degrees. The shelter opens from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the winter months. Guest can check in from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The shelter is located at the Circleville First Church’s Multipurpose Building, located at 436 E. Ohio St.

“The guests will receive a hot meal, a warm shower, and a warm place to lay their head for the night. We are so grateful to Pastor Neff and the Circleville First Church for opening their doors to the community,” Jama Cobb, executive director of United Way of Pickaway County, said. “Without them and their support, the community would still be trying to solve this challenge. They stepped up and made it happen. I am also very grateful to the partnerships who have joined the United Way of Pickaway County to plan and implement this shelter.”

Guests can check daily shelter availability by calling 740-601-4435, 211, or the Facebook Pickaway County Emergency Shelter page.

“We are asking guests who need to seek shelter to call our shelter phone which has been generously provided by Transitions Through Hope,” Cobb said. “If no guests arrive between 9 and 10:30 p.m. during the nights of 32 degrees or colder, the shelter will close for the night. Once we have all of our volunteers secured and scheduled, a weekly schedule will be provided. For now, we are asking them to reach out to the avenues listed here. Just since our opening last Thursday, Dec. 3rd, we have already served 5 guests. We see this number increasing as the word spreads in our community.”

Cobb said one such way is the number of volunteers they receive, which they are also still looking to grow. Volunteers can sign up through the United Way’s volunteer portal at www.pickuw.galaxydigital.com. The next volunteer training is Dec. 15 from 6 to 7 p.m.

“Since extending the ask to the community for volunteers, we have received over 30 individual responses to help in some capacity,” she said. “No surprise though, the Pickaway County community always comes through when there’s a need. We are still seeking more volunteers to cover the 3 shifts that make up the 11 hours of operation. The most needed shift is the midnight to 4 a.m. and 4 to 8 a.m. We require a minimum of 2 volunteers per shift.”

“We are also seeking donations of food and funds,” Cobb added. “The United Way has created an account specifically for this initiative in order to purchase the supplies needed for the shelter. Donations can be made at pickuw.org. and indicate your intent.”

Cobb said thanks to several members of the community

Cobb said their mission is to not replace Haven House or Hope House but partner with them to provide additional support.

“The shelter is helping to fill the gaps with families who want to go to a shelter together,” she said. “With our current shelters, the parents and their children would have to separate, making a difficult situation even more stressful. This allows children to see their parents solve problems as a unit and stay unified through those difficult times. That’s important. There are also elderly parents who are living in camps or on the streets with their adult children. The shelter will serve them well by allowing them to stay together. We have also had an increase of calls to the United Way of Pickaway County and other agencies from individuals who have had their heat/electric disconnected or are having furnace issues. This is a safe alternative to get them through the night until help can arrive or funds can be secured.”

Cobb said even in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic and need to socially distant, they can do that inside the space provided.

“The Second Change Ministry building is quite spacious and it allows for quite a few guests while still staying socially distant and safe,” she said. “We are able to safely prepare warm meals and drinks for the guests. We have 15 cots and blankets which were graciously donated by our local American Red Cross. The Haven House has offered to get us started with some supplies and do our laundry. Several agencies have stepped up to provide nonperishable food for our guests. We’ve received donations from PICCA, the Emergency Clearinghouse Food Pantry, breakfast items from Dana Mead of KFC , and several local residents. We are so grateful for all the donations. Due to storage space availability, we are only accepting specific household items.”

Cobb said moving ahead they plan to continue to partner with other organizations.

“The future plan of this shelter is to partner with an agency who would take on this initiative, aligning it to their mission and vision,” she said. “We would then move those remaining funds to that agency. Right now, it doesn’t have place to land but we are hopeful in the near future, that organization will surface. Transformations Through Hope is a brand-new 501c3 who is still solidifying their business plan and navigating the needs and they very well could answer the call.”

Cobb said it’s been very rewarding for her over the last year that this has come together to see everyone that’s partnered together.

“It’s so rewarding to see something we have worked so hard on finally come to fruition,” Cobb said. “I’m so thankful to our committee, the partnering agencies like the Pickaway County Community Action, Pickaway County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Haven House, Pickaway County Library, Circleville Police Department, City of Circleville, the Community United Methodist Church, Transformations Through Hope, Alliance Appraisal Group, Circleville City Council, the Heritage Nazarene Church, Pickaway County Public Health.”

Cobb said that the effort to get the shelter up and running has been something UWPC has thought through with help from several members of the community including Circleville Mayor Don McIlroy who started the discussion more than a year ago.

“So many individuals and agencies have shown up to make sure every detail has been thought through,” Cobb said. We want to make sure I acknowledge the individuals who have continued to work together on this project. They are Pastor Jay Neff, Amber Wickstrom, Anne Allen, Michelle Kovach, Lisa Johnson, Nick Pruitt, Mark Denniston, Sergeant Phil Roar, Officer David McIntyre, Troy and Jen Rieder, Elieta Vieder, Sam and Debbie Wilson, Brian and Melissa Forcum, Brenda Short, Katie Logan Hedges, Michelle Blanton and Jeff Phillips. We have also had an overwhelming response from the community and businesses. It’s no surprise though, Pickaway County community always comes through when there’s a need. A huge thank you to the volunteers who have stepped up to make this happen. They are the true heroes.”

email scollins@circlevilleherald.com

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