On April 30, The Shepherd's Staff, in Westminster, received the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.
Franchot created the annual award to honor the legacy of public service exemplified by the former Maryland governor and comptroller and Baltimore City mayor, according to the comptroller's office, and it is presented to one winner in each of Maryland's 24 jurisdictions.
It is only fitting and appropriate that The Shepherd's Staff be honored with such an award. This year, Shepherd's Staff will celebrate 20 years of service at its current location, a 10-room house at 30 Carroll Street owned by Grace Lutheran Church.
The idea for a cooperative ministry of churches began in 1989 with the clergy of the Westminster Ministerium and other community lay people.
At the time, the vision was to create one place where anyone in need could find immediate assistance. The goal was to consolidate the efforts among area churches to avoid duplication and provide information about available community resources. It opened its doors on Aug. 5, 1991, in a tiny space donated by the Human Services Programs of Carroll County, according to its website.
In 1994, it moved to 30 Carroll Street as a result of dream keepers in the community such as Pastor Dave Helfrich and visionaries such as Kathy Brown, Lois Giles and Audrey Cimino.
Now in its third year, the Schaefer Award, according to information from Shepherd's Staff, "is given to organizations that best exemplify William Donald Schaefer's lifelong commitment to helping people. Award criteria include demonstration of improving the community, directly aiding the most vulnerable in society or creating a public/private partnership to improve the lives of Marylanders."
Schaefer, who died at age 89 in 2011, will long be well-remembered for a legacy of more than 50 years of public service.
After two unsuccessful campaigns for the Maryland House of Delegates in 1950 and 1954, Schaefer successfully ran for a seat on the Baltimore City Council in 1955.
For most of the rest of his life, with the exception of 1994 to 1999, he continuously held a public office in the city of Baltimore or for the state of Maryland.
He served as the mayor from December, 1971, to January, 1987, then was the 58th governor of Maryland from January, 1987, to January, 1995. He later served as the 32nd comptroller of Maryland from January, 1999, to January, 2007. He lost his bid for re-election as comptroller, finishing third in the 2006 Democratic primary with 29.5 percent of the vote, behind Franchot (36.5 percent) and Janet Owens (34 percent), according to state Board of Elections website.
Schaefer began his legendary legacy of helping people while he was in the Army during World War II. There, according to the Maryland State Archives, he "took charge of administering hospitals in England and Europe. Following his tour of duty, he remained in the U.S. Army Reserves, retiring in 1979 with the rank of Colonel…"
Shepherd's Staff remains an agent of change and future in Westminster with its mission of "to seek out and encourage self-sufficiency."
It does not receive any government funding and "is totally dependent on community generosity and its own fundraising efforts," according to its website (www.shepstaff.org).