Jake Hudock, a longtime participant of The Bridge of the Penn-York Valley Churches' Sleepout fundraiser, considers himself a professional at braving the cold for a good cause.

Hudock, who began staying in The Bridge's makeshift room without walls in front of the Sayre Theatre at 5 p.m. Friday, will complete his fourth 24-hour stint in as many years when the Sleepout wraps up at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Hudock wears a leather jacket and leather gloves and brought a backpack containing extra coats, hand warmers, an iPod and a portable charger. He's even arranged for a pizza to arrive at 9 p.m. Friday and has brought enough coats, blankets and hand warmers to share with other participants, many of whom will stay for an hour.

"The regulars recognize me as someone who comes to support the cause," said Hudock. "I'm willing to sit out here in the cold."

Youth groups, organizations and businesses sponsor an hour at a time as part of the Sleepout, sitting in a small room that has furniture, beds and blankets, but no walls. The design is meant to simulate the realities of many area families that rely on The Bridge to assist with heating costs in the winter, said Dick Friend, president of The Bridge.

Each year, The Bridge supports low-income families residing within the Waverly, Sayre or Athens school districts that struggle with meeting heating expenses, said the Rev. Anne Canfield of the Waverly United Methodist Church, one of the participating groups Friday.

Because of an increase in need, officials from The Bridge have had to do extra work in 2012 to stay "one step ahead of being out of money," Friend said. He hopes to raise $25,000 by the end of the year to help make up the difference.

The Bridge issued $96,000 in assistance through all of 2011, Friend said. With a month to go in 2012, this year's number is already at $100,000.

The Bridge has made presentations to area churches and beefed up publicity for the fundraising drive, moves Friend thought would help The Bridge meet its fundraising goals.

"This community always comes through, always provides, always takes care of those in need," he said. "That will happen this winter, again."

Donations will be collected in a fuel barrel in front of the South Elmer Avenue theater until 5 p.m. Saturday.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.