Baskets signify spring for Shepherd's Staff in Westminster

The house at 30 Carroll St. in Westminster is typically filled with activity, as residents from around the county come by to do laundry, take a bath, pick up needed supplies or find financial assistance from the staff at Shepherd's Staff, a Christian outreach and support center.

For the last few weeks, visitors have also found two rooms of the 10-room house filled with Easter baskets.

"I love the baskets. They look so much like spring," said Brenda Meadows, executive director of the center, as she looked at the rows of brightly colored baskets filled with plastic eggs, bubbles, candy, snacks and more.

This is the 12th year Shepherd's Staff has given out Easter baskets. Last year, they distributed 922 baskets to children up to 14 years in age.

"It started when someone asked a question of something they needed," said Lois Giles, financial administrator at Shepherd's. "They couldn't afford their children's Easter Basket and asked could we help."

Now, every year, the staff collects coloring books, crosses, bubbles and noncandy snacks like Goldfish for weeks before Easter to put in the baskets.

"Obviously, Easter baskets do have candy in them, but we try to minimize the candy," Meadows said.

People are also encouraged to put their own baskets together to donate.

"It is a fun project for kids, Scout groups and church groups to do," Meadows said. "We just ask them to label the gender and age."

Meadows is always impressed with the generosity of Carroll County residents.

"The community is extremely supportive and very willing to donate financially ... and by volunteering," she said.

The donations are even more important as Shepherd's has seen about a 30 percent increase in households needing assistance over the last year, Meadows said.

"We see about 10 new families a month," Meadows said. "In January, we had 58 new families."

Since opening in 1990, The Shepherd's Staff has offered assistance to those who might not meet the guidelines for other types of aid. It receives no state or federal funding.

"We try to focus on those individuals that can't get help elsewhere," Meadows said. "They may make a little too much to get help from other agencies. They fall through the cracks. We try to step in."

The Staff helps with prescriptions and utility bills, and offers financial assistance for emergency water heater or automobile repairs. Some families come just for back-to-school help or call for coats programs.

"Truthfully, the hardest part is walking through that door," Meadows said of individuals needing assistance. "Our staff understands that, too. Once they come in, they are met with hugs and smiles."

The Easter baskets will be distributed April 14 through April 19. Parents or guardians are welcome to come in and receive an age-appropriate basket.

"We are in need of baskets," Meadows said. "It is an activity a lot of people can put their hands around and enjoy doing."

Easter baskets or supplies can be dropped off through Friday, April 4, at The Shepherd's Staff, 30 Carroll St., Westminster, on Thursday, 3 to 7 p.m. and Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For information, call 410-857-5944.

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