GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Shelters opened Thursday night for those needing a warm place to stay as this cold period passes over South Mississippi. But it wouldn't be possible without volunteers.
The warmth inside is about more than just the temperature. It's warm with the spirit of those who have volunteered their time to help others. It takes about 20 volunteers to run the full shift at the Salvation Army cold-weather shelter in Gulfport.
Thursday was the first night for the cold-weather shelter to be open, but it won't be the last. And if this year is anything like last year, it takes a toll on volunteers, said Salvation Army spokesperson Laura Bianco.
"We could not have the cold weather shelter without the volunteers," Bianco said. "To be honest, when we're open 40 or more nights a winter, those volunteers get tired. So we're always looking for new volunteers."
Ted Hearn of Gulfport has worked with the Salvation Army for 20 years and the last four years that the cold-weather shelter has been opened. He coordinates volunteers and he's a volunteer himself. The job, he says, requires more than folding sheets and cooking food.
"It's about passion. About passion for doing what you're doing," he said. "You could just say it's a job that they come and do, but that's not what we really want in a volunteer. We want a volunteer that comes and understands that this is a ministry."
Volunteer Cathy Cottrell helps register the residents of the shelter, and she understand the need for what she does.
"I just get a lot of fulfillment from it," she said. "You know. These people... A lot of them need help. And it's cold and I hate to be cold, so I wouldn't want someone else to be cold."
The shelter not only needs volunteers, but it also needs donations - anything from laundry detergent to socks.