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Area organizations collect warm clothes and toiletries for people who live in the cold

PMG PHOTO: PAT KRUIS - Columbia Bank collects warm coats, pants, socks, blankets, hats, gloves and toiletries for people living out in the cold this winter season.

The Madras warming shelter has filled to capacity on most nights since it opened Nov. 9.

"One night we had to put out a "No vacancy" sign," said Shelter Manager Pat Abernathy. "To me that means we're turning people away. This is the third winter the Faith Based Network has operated the shelter at this location, at the city's South Y, 1814 SW Highway 97. Abernathy says the homelessness has increased in the county and people have become more familiar with the warming shelter and the people who run it. "We are the one door in town that welcomes them," said Abernathy. "Other places don't want them."

That's not to say people in town don't care or want to help.

Last year a gentleman wandered into the Madras branch of Columbia Bank. He didn't approach a teller or any of the loan officers. He simply stood there looking out of place.

Branch Manager Mary Lucy approached him. "I'm just going to be here for a few minutes to warm up," the man told Lucy. He didn't know it, but he came to the right place. Lucy walked him over to a barrel and pulled out a warm coat, a hat and gloves. "We see a lot of people struggling without a place to stay," said Lucy. "We love to give back to the community."

Every year the bank holds a "Warm Heart" campaign. They collect new and gently used coats, hats, gloves and socks, especially socks.

As Abernathy said, Madras has more homeless people, and the need is greater. At one point Lucy reached out to St. Patrick Catholic Church to get coats from their yard sale storage. The bank collects toiletries too: shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, combs, hand warmers, and toothbrushes, especially toothbrushes.

People can bring donations to the bank or donate money to help the bank purchase items. First Interstate Bank and the Jefferson County Fire & EMS are also collecting coats, hats, blankets and boots.

"Help each other," said Lucy. "You just never know when you're going to need help."

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