Holiday Hope: The Shepherd's Staff, private nonprofit, addresses needs that others can't

One small house in Westminster set back from the street and shaded by trees and a group of five staff members

From this stems the outreach of The Shepherd’s Staff, an organization that served more than 10,000 individuals this year. Formed in the early 1990s to consolidate the services of area churches, they now aim to address “the whole person” of those in need.


The Shepherd’s Staff is one of five beneficiaries of Holiday Hope, the Carroll County Times’ annual campaign aimed at driving donations to organizations that help those in need in the Carroll County community. In addition to The Shepherd’s Staff, the Times also partners with Access Carroll, Carroll Food Sunday, Carroll Hospice and Neighbors in Need Year Round. This year, the Holiday Hope campaign goal is to raise $120,000 for the five organizations. To participate in Holiday Hope, readers need only clip the advertisement that appears in the paper every day between now and Christmas, or go to www.carrollcountytimes.com/holidayhope and print out the form.

Executive Director Brenda Meadows said The Shepherd’s Staff encourages their clients to come in and sit down with a staff member to find out how The Shepherd’s Staff can help. That one-on-one conversation is where they might tease out the core problems facing a client.


The staff is there to “sit and chat as long as they need,” she said.

People who might benefit from The Shepherd’s Staff’s work are those who might “fall through the cracks” without emergency financial assistance. They may be above the poverty line and unable to get help elsewhere, facing housing uncertainty or in need of a coat or help paying for a prescription.

“There are a million individual things,” Meadows said.

She gave an example of how a car repair that a family can’t afford might lead to missed work and eventually toward homelessness. For one client, they helped with the fees for a nursing certification test. The client passed and began working as a nurse soon after. For another, they assisted with payments on a family member’s headstone.

The group is a private nonprofit, meaning that they receive no government funding. Their seasonal fundraisers are how they have raised money and gotten their name out in the community.

In-kind donations are also part of the formula. Their Call for Coats Program has already collected about 3,000 coats this year. Other examples of in-kind donations were on display as volunteers and staff worked Monday, Nov. 19 putting finishing touches on the set-up for the Festival of Trees, an auction fundraiser that has become their signature event over the last 12 years.

Rows of miniature pines glittered with ornaments and tinsel, some of which were donated items. One Raggedy Ann and Andy-themed tree features two porcelain dolls that were donated. On another table, donated holiday decorations mingle with handcrafted ones that have been fashioned out of donated bits and bobs. An ornate donated teacup is filled with a bright red arrangement and a vintage bottlebrush tree becomes the backdrop of a snowy scene.

On of of the most celebrated holiday shopping weekends of the year, the Shepherd’s Staff is bringing back its annual Festival of the Trees for the 12th year. The festival is scheduled from Black Friday through Sunday, Nov. 25 at John Street Quarters in Westminster with a tree lighting and auction.

“We strive not to duplicate services,” Meadows said of The Shepherd’s Staff’s role among other local agencies. In some cases, they may refer people to other services if that’s where help can be found.

There are only five official staff for the agency and those people work part-time, making it about the equivalent of 2 1/2 paid staff members, said Karen Rau, volunteer coordinator. That’s why a stable of volunteers is so vital to the organization’s work.

“We couldn’t run any of our programs without our amazing volunteers,” she said.

The level of commitment varies, from those who volunteer once a year for special events to those who come in once a week.

Information about becoming a volunteer for The Shepherd’s Staff is available by calling 410-857-5944 , or the application is available at www.shepstaff.org/volunteer.

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