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‘It’s going to be a little different': The Shepherd’s Staff back-to-school program open for donations, registration

Just because Carroll County students will be starting the year with online-only education doesn’t mean the need for back-to-school supplies has lessened.

Each year, The Shepherd’s Staff collects new backpacks and other school supplies and distributes them to kids in Carroll who need them for the upcoming school year as part of its annual back-to-school program.

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The program is currently open for registration and still taking donations, but will operate under difference circumstances this year, according to a new release from The Shepherd’s Staff. Carroll County Public Schools announced July 29 that students will start the school year off in a virtual setting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we’ve been trying to do is work with some teachers, principals and the school system in general to identify the items that the kids are going to need when they start school virtually,” Shepherd’s Staff executive director Brenda Meadows said. “We utilize that information and paired our normal list down to the items that the teachers — and ultimately on our end — what we thought would be best for them to start the school year with.”

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The Shepherd’s Staff, located in Westminster, is a Christian outreach and support center serving those in crisis in Carroll County since 1991. The center works with local churches, organizations, businesses, schools, and individuals that support the grassroots ministry with financial contributions, product/service donations, and hundreds of hours of volunteerism.

The Shepherd’s Staff provides a wide range of outreach programs and services as well.

Meadows said the back-to-school program has been going on for more than 20 years and it was one of the first programs The Shepherd’s Staff implemented. More than 1,300 backpacks were distributed in 2019, according to the release.

On Aug. 20, Carroll County Democratic Club’s treasurer, Mark Wilson, left, and club President Kate Sanner, right, presented a check for $300 to Brenda Meadows, center, executive director of The Shepherd’s Staff of Carroll County for its back-to-school program to purchase shoes for children in need for the 2019-2020 school year.
On Aug. 20, Carroll County Democratic Club’s treasurer, Mark Wilson, left, and club President Kate Sanner, right, presented a check for $300 to Brenda Meadows, center, executive director of The Shepherd’s Staff of Carroll County for its back-to-school program to purchase shoes for children in need for the 2019-2020 school year. (Courtesy Photo)

“It’s grown exponentially,” Meadows said. “This year, we are not expecting as many families as we normally do simply because normally we’re able to get the information out through the school system and share that information and also get that information out to our partners in Carroll County and other remote areas of the county.

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“We were not able to do that this year because, just like everyone else, we’re in a game of wait and see.”

Meadows said The Shepherd’s Staff expanded its distribution to more areas of the county in need over the years, but a few of those areas became unavailable due to the nature of the pandemic. Many of the organization’s volunteers are 60 years old and above, and could not risk exposing themselves to the possibility of contracting the virus.

The Shepherd’s Staff has been working diligently the past three months to develop any and all scenarios of how to make the Back-to-School program work while following Gov. Larry Hogan’s social distancing guidelines, Meadows said.

Those wishing to donate supplies or make a financial contribution should call The Shepherd’s Staff office at 410-857-5944.

In order to receive supplies, parents or guardians of school-aged children from pre-kindergarten through high school who reside in Carroll County, must preregister by Friday, Aug. 28, also by calling the Shepherd’s Staff’s office at 410-857-5944, according to the release. A staff member will schedule a date and time for parents/guardians to pick up the supplies between Aug. 31 and Sept. 4. The first day of school for CCPS is Sept. 8.

“One of the most important things about back-to-school in general is the structure and the routine that brings to kids’ lives,” Meadows said. “With virtual learning to kick off the year, it’s going to be a little different. We really thought it was important that [this is ] something that had been in some of these children’s lives over the course of a few years and other kids that we’re going to be seeing this year … simply because of loss of income.

“There’s still the structure, the backpacks, there’s still things to gear you towards the fall. That’s incredibly important for a lot of children.”

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