Shepherd's Staff helps students with back-to-school donations

Surrounded by bright backpacks and brand-new books, Kayta Gonzalez's children waited patiently to pick out new school supplies Tuesday at The Shepherd's Staff in Westminster.

The Shepherd's Staff is a Christian outreach and support center serving the needy in Carroll County. The organization's back-to-school program, in its 22nd year, provides low-income students with school supplies, clothing, books and shoes.


Gonzalez, of Taneytown, said the program has been a big help to her family for six years.

"Anything you need is here. They help no matter what. There's no judgment here," she said.

According to Ronda Robinson, The Shepherd's Staff's back-to-school coordinator, students in kindergarten through second grade each receive a backpack with four folders, two composition books, highlighters, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue sticks and pink erasers. Upper grade students each receive a backpack with a binder, folders, paper, tab dividers, index cards, colored pencils, highlighters, pens and pencils. All students also receive two books donated by Penguin-Random House in Westminster.

"It helps kids go back to school with self-confidence and dignity," said Brenda Meadows, executive director of The Shepherd's Staff. "They can go in with their heads held high. Kids say they can't believe how much better they feel about themselves.

Meadows said the program also provides $11 Payless gift cards to help students to purchase new shoes, as well as vouchers to the Salvation Army Thrift Shop in Westminster to help pay for school clothing.

"We want them to start the first day of school on the right foot," Meadows said.

Susan Knouse, of Westminster, is raising five children and said the program is very helpful.

"I don't have a lot of money to spend on school supplies. They can be really expensive. This helps a lot," Knouse said.

Ed Humphries, of Ed's Barber Shop in Union Bridge, donates his time and talent to the program. He provides free haircuts on the last Wednesday of every month at the center and makes himself available to clients during special events like the back-to-school program.

"I was looking for something to do of a service nature in a Christian way. I like helping children and making them feel good," Humphries said.

Meadows said the program served 1,200 students last year. This year 1,100 students have preregistered to receive backpacks filled with school essentials. The Shepherd's Staff will continue to accept registrations and donations.

To donate or register to The Shepherd's Staff, call 410-857-5944.