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Holiday Hope: The Shepherd’s Staff is ‘blessed beyond measure’ with community support

The Shepherd’s Staff has provided assistance to Carroll County residents in crisis for more than 30 years and the holiday season is no exception.

The coronavirus pandemic has rocked the country’s economy for at least eight months. Many people have lost their jobs or seen their incomes cut, forcing them to into serious economic hardships.

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Brenda Meadows, executive director of The Shepherd’s Staff, said the staff has had to take a step back and reevaluate the way they operate because of the pandemic. Several of the organization’s fundraisers were canceled and they have been working to develop unique ways of raising funds and engaging the community through virtual events.

“We sort of try and focus on the folks that are on the poverty line, that are just really struggling,” Meadows said. “They just need that boost. Many times, it’s just a one-time boost, to keep them from spiraling into homelessness. That’s where we come in.”

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The Shepherd’s Staff is a non-denominational Christian outreach and support center that aims to provide temporary assistance to resolve short-term problems and empower people to seek more permanent solutions for social and economic self-sufficiency.

This nonprofit is one of five beneficiaries of Holiday Hope, the Times’ annual campaign aimed at driving donations to organizations that help those in need in the Carroll County community. Now in its 22nd year, Holiday Hope raised more than $120,000 for local nonprofit organizations last year. In addition to The Shepherd’s Staff, the Times and partner NWSB Bank, a division of ACNB Bank, raise funds for Access Carroll, Carroll County Food Sunday, Carroll Hospice and Human Services Programs of Carroll County.

Emily Wachter, left, and Tony Gerald, right, work together with other volunteers to organize meals for delivery to patron's home for The Shepherd's Staff annual Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner at St. John's Catholic Church on Thursday, November 26, 2020.
Emily Wachter, left, and Tony Gerald, right, work together with other volunteers to organize meals for delivery to patron's home for The Shepherd's Staff annual Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner at St. John's Catholic Church on Thursday, November 26, 2020. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

The number of people in need of assistance has significantly increased this year, Meadows said, and any donations provided on behalf of Holiday Hope go toward the organization’s general fund to provide those people with the assistance they need.

“There are a considerable amount of funds raised to support our programs, which is incredible,” Meadows said. “It’s important, the awareness that the Holiday Hope campaign gives the Shepherd’s Staff, and the value of that is immeasurable because the folks in the community are reading about what the Shepherd’s Staff is and are hearing about what we do.”

The Shepherd’s Staff has hosted a Thanksgiving Day dinner for those in need for 24 years in what is normally a sit-down feast. The tradition continued this year, but in a pop-up drive-thru style fashion. Families received a complete Thanksgiving dinner along with utensils, dessert, and other necessary items to compliment the meal.

Cassidy Toth, 16, of Sykesville loads meals into the back seat of a patron's car upon arrival for The Shepherd's Staff annual Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner at St. John's Catholic Church on Thursday, November 26, 2020.
Cassidy Toth, 16, of Sykesville loads meals into the back seat of a patron's car upon arrival for The Shepherd's Staff annual Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner at St. John's Catholic Church on Thursday, November 26, 2020. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

The 14th annual Festival of Trees, the organization’s largest fundraiser, will be solely virtual this year, featuring an online auction of decorated Christmas trees and other holiday items up for bid from Nov. 27 to Dec. 6.

“We’re excited to be able to offer it,” Meadows said. “It really means a lot to us to be able to host it in some fashion.”

In October, the Shepherd’s Staff opened a satellite Blessings Closet location at St. Paul United Methodist Church in New Windsor to distribute in-kind personal care items such shampoo, dish detergent, laundry soap, and other household and personal care items.

The organization is also asking for donations of stocking-stuffer items to distribute stockings to members of the community.

“It’s been interesting to put processes in place to keep people safe and social distance yet still accept donations and to distribute those same donations without person-to-person contact,” Meadows said. "Fundraising has been quite a struggle, but we live in a wonderful community and are blessed beyond measure to have the supporters that we have.

“We really couldn’t do what we do without them.”

Mark MacLean-Blevins of Westminster, left, holds meal plates for delivery orders as Cindy Potee of Sykesville fills them with vegetables, as dozens of volunteers work to distribute meals for The Shepherd's Staff annual Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner at St. John's Catholic Church on Thursday, November 26, 2020. Mark MacLean-Blevins, and his family, helped with the dinner, volunteering in memory of his son, Ian, who died earlier in the year.
Mark MacLean-Blevins of Westminster, left, holds meal plates for delivery orders as Cindy Potee of Sykesville fills them with vegetables, as dozens of volunteers work to distribute meals for The Shepherd's Staff annual Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner at St. John's Catholic Church on Thursday, November 26, 2020. Mark MacLean-Blevins, and his family, helped with the dinner, volunteering in memory of his son, Ian, who died earlier in the year. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

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