When Jeannie Dussault of Westminster Church of the Brethren heard about a grant being offered by Brethren Disaster Ministries she immediately thought of The Shepherd’s Staff, a community staple for those in need. After speaking with Cindy Potee at the nonprofit, she immediately applied for the $3,500 grant.
Dussault said her conversation with Potee revealed how the pandemic had caused donations to drop, something that the executive director of the nonprofit, Brenda Meadows confirmed.
“We’ve had to cancel Empty Bowls last year and move to a drive-through option this year, and to cancel our Designer Bag and Bingo and Yard Sale in 2020 and 2021,” Meadows said. “We’ve had to come up with innovative ways to retool some of the events and create new ones in order to assure we have the necessary funds to serve the community.”
Dussault, who is community spirit coordinator at the church, explained how they organized. Eight people who live at Carroll Lutheran Village collected 500 plastic bags — the bags their meals have been delivered in during the pandemic. Another team of five purchased items on the needs list — both locally and online. Then three crews assembled the items into bags, with another group delivering to The Shepherd’s Staff.
“Items to go out in the bags were set out along three walls of the church’s Fellowship Hall,” Dussault said. “Small groups in the church family made 65 food orders comprised of three bags each, [plus] 40 personal-care item bags.”
Volunteer, Jan Flora said work like this is important to her.
“I have a real appreciation for our shared humanity and how some of us start life with more cards than others,” she said. “My motto during COVID became. ‘Take what you need and share what you have.’ Standing there and assembling bags — for me, each bag carried a prayer that [it] would simply touch a life, make a difference and spread a little love, no strings attached.”
Meadows is grateful for the generosity she’s seen lately and shared some recent donors.
“One example would be Ecker Lawn Service,” she said. “During the spring, summer and fall months, they take care of our lawn gratis so that the funds otherwise utilized for these services can instead go directly back into the community. One of the owner’s family members was served through the Back to School program many years ago and has never forgotten what that kindness meant to them as a child. Shiloh Pottery in Hampstead helped us with the bowls for our Empty Bowls fundraiser that allowed us to host the event this year. The New Vision Pioneers — Maryland Chapter helped stock our emergency food pantry. Carroll Lutheran School students did a drive and provided the personal care items in two recent deliveries.
On delivery day, Dussault called on church member Ray Mariner and his pick-up truck. Mariner said his 18-year-old son Justin came along to help.
“I live in the Randallstown area,” Mariner said. “Driving through our area, we see that anytime there are food offerings for the needy there are huge lines. One place down our way sometimes causes a backup with the line of cars waiting to get food. I think the pandemic has exasperated the need. "
Flora recalled leaner days in her life and how hard it was to get by.
“When I first moved to this community and used any program that was available, I became aware of how humiliating that process can be, and how others can — out of the goodness of their hearts — still be demeaning to those in need,” she said. “We give sincerely, but from a position of security and self-sufficiency. It is so important to level the playing field and to be willing to expose your humanity and to see the humanity in other people.”
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“Donations of this type are incredibly helpful,” she said. “Not only do in-kind donations free up funds to use for our Emergency Financial Assistance programs, they also, free up funds for those we serve. For example, if you are a family with two children and you avail yourself to programs like our Blessings Closet (which distributes personal care essentials), our Call for Coats program (that distributes warm weather outerwear during the cold weather months), our Back to School program (that provides the necessary schools supplies for children to start the year off right,) you are easily able to free up over a thousand dollars over the course of a year which can be used for other expenses like transportation, food, rent and utilities.
“I can’t say what it means any better than one of our guests, [who wrote], ‘They helped me even when … I had a job. The Shepherd’s Staff cared that just because I have a job doesn’t mean I can’t be going through a rough time also. God Bless them. I don’t know what I would have done. Thank you so much.’”
One way others can help is by participating in the nonprofit’s fundraisers, including the upcoming Shine into Summer prize draw.
One ticket will be drawn each weekday during the month of June for a chance to win a daily prize valued at $50 and over. All purchased tickets will also be eligible for a Grand Prize on June 30th. View the prizes and purchase tickets online at go.rallyup.com/shepstaffshine.
Meadows had just a few more words to share.
“It is humbling and heartening to work in such a generous and caring community,” she said. “Words cannot describe what it means to meet and engage with so many beautiful donors through the work that we do at The Shepherd’s Staff. We are thankful each and every day for the experiences we have with our donors and the opportunity to be there for our guests.”
Learn more at www.shepstaff.org.