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Thousands of coats have been collected.

More than 300 stockings will be stuffed and 70 trees are being decorated.

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Twelve to 14 whole turkeys and at least 10 turkey breasts will be cooked and served on Thanksgiving.

It is a busy time of year at Shepherd's Staff in Westminster.

The Christian outreach and support center serves the needy in Carroll County throughout the year by providing emergency financial assistance, a soup kitchen, clothing, children's Easter baskets and various other services.

During the winter holidays, however, things go into overdrive – a call for coats; supplies for Thanksgiving dinner; stuffing stockings and hosting its biggest fundraiser, the Festival of Trees.

"We have a lot of little groups going," said Brenda Meadows, executive director. "It is a miracle it all gets done, but it always does."

Last year, Shepherd's Staff fed 280 people a complete Thanksgiving feast of turkey, dressing, potatoes, pie and coffee.

That number was 30 more than the previous year and included meals that were delivered to those who were homebound, Meadows said.

All the work for the free meal held at St. John's Catholic Church is by volunteers who donate and prepare the food, serve it, and do all the set-up and tear-down for the event.

"Amazingly enough, Thanksgiving Day is the day we have the most people come forward who want to volunteer," Meadows said. "There are families that have made it a tradition and done this year after year. It's just wonderful, really."

Everyone attending the meal leaves with a goody bag filled with fruit and desserts, according to Kathy Reid, organizer of the feast.

Those goody bags are filled Thanksgiving morning when Reid's volunteers arrive at 8 a.m. to stuff, chop, dice and cut.

"It's a labor of love," Reid said of all the effort put forth during the day."The people who volunteer get as much out of the work as the people who receive. It's a win-win."

Once the feast is done, Shepherd's Staff's Festival of Trees fundraiser opens at the Town Mall in Westminster on Black Friday – this year on Nov. 28. Now in its eighth year, the eventraises money through a silent auction for 70 decorated Christmas trees in three sizes.

"Trees are decorated by volunteers," said Kathy Taylor, an administrative assistant who first became involved with Shepherd's Staff as a tree decorator. "Sponsors can put down what they want."

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Themes this year include Frosty the Snowman, Frozen, a Victorian theme and the ever-popular sport-themed trees – the Baltimore Ravens, the Baltimore Orioles, Maryland Terps and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"We hit all of them, as they seem to bring in the highest bids," Taylor said of the team-inspired trees.

Bidding for the trees begins on Nov. 28 and ends on Dec. 13.

During all of this, Shepherd's Staff is collecting stockings for boys and girls up to age 14 to be distributed on Dec. 18 during a campfire featuring s'mores and Christmas carols.

"Kids don't see the stockings," Meadows said. "We put them in bags and distribute them inside. The kids really enjoy the s'mores and being outside by the campfire."

While many of the 315 stockings are donated full, a few have to be put together. Meadows is anticipating a larger demand this year due to the changes in the county's Neighbors in Need program and the closing of its holiday shop.

Shepherd's Staff just finished a successful coat drive that began on Sept. 27 and ended on Nov. 14.

"It is something fairly easy to do," Meadows said. "Go into your closet and share things you no longer use with others who can.

"A coat, especially on a day like today, really makes a difference" Meadows said, referring to this past Tuesday's windy, chilly weather.

Last year, more than 5,000 coats were donated, and Meadows estimates that number will be matched this year.

"This is the time of year people are very generous," Meadows said. "This is a very giving community."

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