DELTA, MO (KFVS) - From three to 40 in just two months: that's how many people now stay at the AMEN Center in Delta.
We first told you about the shelter for homeless and others down on their luck in late September. Shirley and Danny Hollowell turned the old elementary building into a shelter.
The Hollowell's say they didn't expect the quick growth, let alone that 15 children would be among the guests. The ages range from two to 16.
"It happened quickly," said Hollowell. "We have to keep the money coming in because if we ever had to close, I don't know where they'd go."
Two of the teens agreed to share their story with Heartland news.
"If I could have anything I wanted it would be a home," said Kyara Smith. Smith is just 14.
She says she's learned hard lessons.
"I've learned that people struggle a lot," said Smith. "I didn't realize that before."
Smith and her family ended up at the Center after a string of other shelters. Smith says her mother and two brothers have been homeless since Spring.
"My mom wanted to get away from being abused," said Smith.
"We really needed to get away from Perryville," said 15-year-old Kirsten Looney.
Looney has a similar story. She is also staying at the shelter with her mother and two brothers ages 11 and 12.
"It's hard. It's scary," said Looney. "If I had a home that would be so nice. Just to have our own place. We are so thankful to be here. It's so welcoming. If it wasn't for this place we would be out on the streets."
"It's very sad," said Smith. "You just feel like you can't do anything about it."
Both girls say the hardest part is explaining the situation to their friends.
"It gets embarrassing," said Looney. "You have to try and tell your friends why they can't come over. They are surprised when they find out we don't have a house."
But in Delta, their peers did more than just accept them, they reached out.
"It kind of made me feel bad," said 12-year-old Triston Perry.
He and his mom Jayme got involved after another friend cleaned out a toy box and asked to take the old toys to the AMEN Center.
"She said why do you want to take it to the old grade school and he said because I have friends living out there," said Jayme Perry. "That just broke my heart."
The Perry's wasted no time organizing on-going efforts to stock the shelves and bring in money. See, for them it's also part of the circle of giving. They found themselves on hard times a year ago due to a family illness, and remember how they felt when the community reached out to them.
"I just knew we had to help and give back," said Jayme Perry.
Triston says it's all about giving others hope.
"Hope and a good Christmas," said Triston.
Hope is what the teens say they cling to now.
"We are so thankful," said Looney. 'I know everything will work out for the best in the long run and we are all going to get on our feet. One day we can all have our own home and help others out."
Meanwhile, the Perry's are working to organize a toy drive in the near future. They want to make sure the children have a nice Christmas.
Also, the Hollowell's say they are concerned about the toll Winter will take.
"We are worried about utility bills," said Shirley Hollowell. "We need money. Money so that we can keep these children safe. So many of us are one pay check away from being in a place like this. If everyone could just open their heart the blessing would be unreal."
Right now the shelter has enough food for at least two weeks. They are looking for sponsors who would offer consistent donations.