One of Texoma’s non profits is gearing up for one of its busiest times of the year. Grayson County Shelter Executive Director of Grayson County Shelter Sheila Penn said while things are picking up for both those needing to seek a room and those offering donations, there are vacancies for the shelter at this time.

The shelter typically sees around 320 residents come through year and helps about 1,200 non-residents in a year as well.

“We absolutely see an increase this time of year with Christmas and Thanksgiving coming up people are more generous this time of year,” Penn said. “It is great to see the residents getting excited.We have a church that comes in to provide a full dinner for our residents. We will have another church come in and provide a Christmas dinner between 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Dec. 8.”

Penn said the shelter started in 1987 following the passing of Donald Brandt who donated the building to the non-profit at the time of his death. It was done in honor of his late wife Helen Brandt.

The shelter provides a space for up to 46 residents to stay while seeking employment and housing. The shelter can house people for up to 21 days with the option of extending that stay if needed.

“Anytime the residents are working at the program and trying to secure housing, we can extend that stay longer if need be,” Penn said. “We know it is hard to secure housing once you find a job. We want them to be able to save up for the deposits and to get the utilities on and everything.”

Penn said the shelter relies on contributions and support from area churches who often provide food for the meals as well as assist with toy drives and various other drives and provide necessities to those staying at the shelter. One thing the shelter does is provides food boxes with things like vegetables, canned goods, bread and other items to those in need.

Right now, there is also a coat drive going on. In addition to coats, the shelter will hand out gloves, blankets, scarves, sleeping bags or anything else needed to help get through the colder months. Penn said the shelter typically sees an increase during the months with more extreme weather bringing people indoors.

Next to the shelter is a thrift store that supports the shelter. The residents of the shelter are required to do chores to help out, and the thrift store is one place they can volunteer. The store also provides volunteer opportunities from members of the community.

The shelter puts together care packages for the people it serves. Those include items like toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, snacks and water bottles.

Another source of assistance for the shelter is the Angel Wish Christmas Tree which is sponsored by the Hilton Garden Inn. There will be names of residents along with a wish list on the angel tree that people can donate towards.

“We have tons of organizations in the community, individuals who all contribute to us on a day-to-day basis throughout the year,” Penn said. “We love the fact our community gets out and helps us. Without their involvement we couldn’t exist.”

Residents are required to meet certain criteria in order to stay at the shelter in order to promote the safety of everyone. Some of those include passing a drug and background test. Violent offenders will not be admitted. Because there may be children present at times, the shelter also has someone on staff 24/7.