People serving food at a long table

The Open Shelter of Columbus has had a year full of changes, and despite the organization’s stormy weather, the shelter will ring in the holidays in style with their annual holiday event “Ho Ho Hope For The Holidays.”

According to a statement from the Shelter’s Development Coordinator, Harry Yeprem Jr., “The event exists to provide Holiday Cheer and Help to those who may not normally able to experience it.” The event, Yeprem added, was “was very near and dear to the heart of Mary (Beittel, the shelter’s late co-founder and Executive Director).”

Approximately 400 men, women and children are expected to attend this year's event at Broad Street United Methodist Church. The event will be held on December 19, the Tuesday before Christmas at the Church, located in the Discovery District at 501 E. Broad Street.

When Kent and Mary Beittel opened the shelter in December 1983, it was the first shelter of its kind in Ohio, according to their website. According to the Shelter’s website, “Since then, over 30,000 men, women, and children have been helped,” as the shelter has provided emergency shelter and assistance for the homeless in Central Ohio for the last 34 years. The shelter opened its doors to any homeless person, including those that were under the influence. Meals are delivered to the shelter from various and multiple volunteer organizations throughout the Columbus area, since the Open Shelter does not have a kitchen.

The Shelter’s co-founder and Executive Director Mary Beittel passed away in August after a battle with brain cancer. Mary’s husband and Executive Director Kent Beittel considered closing the shelter, but after feedback from the community and shelter stakeholders, Beittel said that the Shelter has “an important and unique role in this community’s continuum of care and need to preserve the style and commitment of our pastoral care emphasis and alliances-for-the-long-haul.”

Kent Beittel sought out people who would carry on the vision and purpose of the Opeb Shelter for years to come. Beittel started this big step by hiring an Executive Assistant, Sheli Mathias, in the fall of 2017.

The Shelter had a recent benefit concert, “Don’t Breathe” at the Long Street Studio in the Discovery District in November, featuring the music of Maahikkee, a local songwriter who used a Kickstarter campaign to “share a story through music,” according to a statement from the Shelter.

Also in November, the Shelter gave away tickets to the upcoming Harmony Project Concert, “The Concert for Us” with Host Jane Pauley, on December 7 at Nationwide Arena, for those who donated online to the shelter before November 27. In October, over $ 31,000 was raised for the Shelter through The Columbus Foundation’s 26-hour online fundraiser, The Big Give.

The Open Shelter is always in need of volunteers, especially for the “Ho Ho Hope For The Holidays” on December 19. For more information on the Open Shelter, including donating and volunteering, go to,or call (614) 222-2885.

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