MILFORD - The Beth-El Shelter is celebrating 30 years and launching a new effort to raise awareness and funds for operating the center.

Beth-El is distributing small banks in the shape of houses, which can be filled with coins and returned. Executive Director Toni Dolan said the effort is to demonstrate to the children of the community the importance of helping the homeless.

“The idea is that this will hopefully be a small fundraiser for us and will raise awareness,” she said. “We hope it will be an educational experience.”

The donation banks will be available at the shelter and at Milford Bank. They can also be returned to either location.

Dolan said that 30 years is a significant landmark for the shelter. She said that although the shelter is small, they’re trying to do their part to end homelessness in the local area. Each year, the shelter serves 18,000 meals. The shelter, at 90 New Haven Ave., also has 34 beds, which includes spaces at the West Haven Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center.

“We’re helping end homelessness one person at a time,” Dolan said.

She thanked the shelter’s “dedicated” board of directors and staff for working hard to help the shelter survive. The shelter has faced drastic budget cuts at the state level during the last few years due to tough economic conditions.

Dolan said that the donations will go toward improving and expanding programs. Currently the shelter offers a case management program that offers counseling for employment, supportive housing, and other services. The shelter also runs educational programs, working with organizations such as the Milford Rape Crisis Center and the Visiting Nurse Association.

The shelter offers temporary housing for 90 days, as well as running a no-freeze shelter in the soup kitchen during the winter months. For more information, go to http://bethelmilford.org.