by Terry Rogers
Code Purple shelters began opening their doors December 1 and will continue to be open every night until March 15. However, several shelters in the area are in danger of not opening some nights due to a shortage of volunteers.
“We are in great need of overnight volunteers,” Nikki Gonzalez, Executive Director of Code Purple, said. “We have Tuesdays left to fill for the men’s shelter in Milford and many nights still left to fill at the women’s shelters in both Milford and Bridgeville. We would like to have two volunteers per shelter per night, but we can open with just one volunteer. We have nights coming up this week that are empty of overnight help and this is the critical piece of our work because, without that, we don’t need any other spot filled.”
In addition to overnight volunteers, Code Purple is looking for intake, transportation, dinner and morning relief. Overnight volunteers work from 8:30 PM until either 7 or 7:45 AM. Intake spots are available from 6:45 until 8:30 PM.
“If anyone would like to come in during dinner to see how things run, they are more than welcome to join us,” Gonzalez said. “We have site coordinators that will meet you and train you. We have procedures written down at each site so no one will be confused or without direction. We are only able to operate thanks to the community giving their time and talents to make it a success.”
Volunteers at Code Purple shelters provide oversight while the guests are in the shelter. They help with bedding, totes and chores while making sure check in and check out times are adhered to for the duration of the shift. They also diffuse any issues between guests although Gonzalez explained that the volunteers are not there to babysit those staying in the shelter.
“It’s a wonderful time to invest in someone’s life,” Gonzalez said. “You are not there to be a policeman but instead are there to provide friendship to someone who desperately needs it. We also need volunteers who can provide dinner for our guests. We ask for a main dish, bread and dessert or vegetable. Some volunteers have also brought tea, milk or soft drinks. Feel free to ask your friends and family to assist with this. We can also sign off service hours for groups who may earn them for community assistance projects.” Gonzalez explained that the shelter likes to provide variety in meals as it is difficult on the guest’s stomachs to eat red sauces too often. She suggested chili, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, chicken and dumplings, hot dogs, tacos, as well as soups and stews. Anyone wishing to deliver dinner should reach out to Kaytra MacDonald at 302-853-0129 for a headcount or to have questions answered.
Intake volunteers complete forms as guests arrive, have them sign the boundaries check off and help guests check in their bags. Morning relief volunteers ensure the nightly chores are completed and do any follow up cleaning. They also complete an inventory list that is submitted to the replenishment coordinator. Volunteers are also needed to transport female guests from meal sites in Seaford and Milford to the women’s shelters in the evening. They also transport them back into town the next day. The shelter is searching for two 15-passenger vans to assist with this service.
The mission of Code Purple is to offer shelter to those with no home by utilizing local churches, their sanctuaries, time and talent to save lives during cold weather. Initially, Code Purple shelters opened only when the temperature fell below a certain level but they are now open every night during the winter months. Avenue United Methodist Church and Milford Church of the Nazarene in Milford are both Code Purple shelter locations. A list of all shelters available in Sussex County can be found at http://codepurplesussexcounty.com/code-purple-shelters/. For more information on volunteering, call 302-519-0024 or visit http://codepurplesussexcounty/volunteers.
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