MILFORD - Despite difficult economic times, city residents were generous in their donations to the Beth-El Center last month, according to its executive director.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the generosity of the Milford community,” said Toni Dolan, about contributions to both residents of the shelter and patrons of the soup kitchen.

“The donations of baked goods, special meals, gifts for the Adopt a Resident or Family Program, warm hats, gloves, scarves, gift cards, and so many other kindnesses, showed our clients that the community cares about them. This is the best gift of all.”

The 34-bed shelter on New Haven Avenue is filled to capacity on a regular basis, housing single men, single women, and mothers with children, said Dolan.

“The common bond of those at the shelter is homelessness, but there are different reasons that they’re here,” she said. “Some have lost jobs and are unable to make ends meet, some are employed, but can’t find affordable housing, while others are dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues.”

The 90-day temporary shelter helps its residents obtain work, education and training, or treatment so they can function independently. “Case managers work daily with residents and referring agencies to establish individual plans, which set goals in terms of housing, employment and support services,” said Dolan, noting that last year, the shelter helped about 150 people.

Beth-El also opens a No Freeze Shelter during the winter for people who would otherwise have no place to stay on extremely cold nights. “We set up cots in a very small area in the center’s Soup Kitchen and they’re offered on a first come, first serve basis,” said Dolan.

The Soup Kitchen provides hot meals weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to anyone in need in the community, serving 60 to 70 people per day.

Dolan estimated that more than18,000 meals were served in 2010.

The Adopt a Resident or Family Program accepts donations of gifts for shelter residents during the holidays.

“It began because people in the community would start calling the shelter in the fall asking what those living here might need for the holidays,” said Dolan, adding that Beth-El appreciated the generosity of the Milford community for remembering people in need with such an unselfish spirit.

“A man told me last month that this was the best Christmas he’s had since his wife died,” she said.

“It wasn’t just that he’d received things he needed, like boots and jeans, that made it special, but that someone who didn’t know him cared enough to help.”