Emergency shelter hopes for sleeping bag donations

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Switching Gears is opening its doors to anyone in need of shelter during a bitterly cold week. The non-profit bike shop is operating as an emergency shelter, laying out cots and blankets to those living without shelter.

"We've been appreciative of people donating food and blankets," said director Dusty Costeen. "What we could really use now are sleeping bags, so people who rely on them can take them once the shelter closes and have something warm.

The Wilmington Fire Department also toured the make-shift emergency shelter, donating, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.

"Our number one priority is safety," said Tommy Johnson with Switching Gears. "Once everyone arrives, we hold a fire drill, informing people about what do in case of emergency."

Staff with the Anchor Church are also bringing hot meals to the shelter, which holds around 25 people.

"We have the space here available. We had to move the bikes out last night but we feel like we have the resources, why not do something good for people that need it?" said David Schoch with the church.

Kelly Porcelli says she didn't have another option to escape the frigid temperatures and said it wouldn't have been safe for her to stay outside.

"I would be sleeping under a bridge right now if it wasn't for this place," she said, "Right now, this is when we need it the most."

Porcelli and others will likely stay the week, through possible winter weather on Wednesday. Staff with the church said they will make sure that people are supplied with blankets and gloves when they leave. They said that thanks to donations from the community, they're working to make sure that no one is turned away.

Switching Gears operates a shelter during hurricanes as well. The shop is located at 1202 Chestnut Street.

The Salvation Army is also making things easier for those in need of shelter. Major Mark Craddock said they are opening more beds in their emergency shelter, and lower some of the barriers for those entering the shelter.

"As long as the cold snap lasts, the idea being that we want people to have a safe, warm place to be in these cold weather places," Craddock said.

Craddock said that there are still available beds at the emergency shelter at 820 N. Second St.

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