EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Local volunteer Deborah Martinez started a fundraising campaign to create ‘winter kits’ for the homeless facing challenges when temperatures drop.

Martinez volunteers at the Rescue Mission of El Paso and Corner of Hope – local organizations providing clothes and food for the homeless.

She said she came up with the idea after an encounter with a man who would often be around a local grocery store. He told her he was afraid of how he was going to make it through the winter without a blanket and wearing only his sandals.

“I got him a jacket and some food, but I thought, there’s probably so many people who don’t have blankets or jackets for the winter,” Martinez said.

She is now collecting the donations on her GoFundMe campaign where she explains what will be in the goodie bag.

Each winter kit will have a blanket, a jacket, socks, gloves, snacks, lip balm, and wipes which she estimated to cost about $15 per bag. Her goal is to reach $1000 so she can give away as many bags as possible before it gets colder.

The shelters have already been challenged by the COVID-19 guidelines having to adapt and expand their facilities.

John Martin, Deputy Director of Opportunity Center for the Homeless, said they opened up several new facilities to be able to safely accommodate as many people as possible.

“We’ve worked with 1,447 unduplicated individuals since mid-April and of that number, we had 22 who were COVID positive,” said Martin explaining they were able to catch every positive case before the person was placed in the shelter with the general population.

He said they have a strict process of entry that consists of COVID-19 testing and isolation if needed. So far, they have prevented any clusters from emerging in the shelters.

“The success of this program is based on the partnerships we’ve based in the community, we couldn’t have done it alone,” explained Martin emphasizing the help they got from the City and County of El Paso along with other local organizations joining the effort.

He said so far they have not seen the ‘winter rush’, but they are expecting a 30-40% increase once the weather gets colder. He added they will expand the facilities if necessary.

“Just plant a little seed and do something good for them,” said Martinez to invite the community to help her mission of helping those in need.