Volunteers, donations make Good Shepherd work
Monday was a day of transition at the Good Shepherd Thrift Store as the Christmas display on the thrift shop’s floor was being transformed to a winter coast display.
But as she had to turn away a woman who asked for an appointment too late in the morning, Lynn McEachron, Good Shepherd board member and one of four managers at the store with Shirley Sheaffer, Janet Stuke and Dorothy Dunlap, said one thing remained the same regardless of the season, especially as the recession drags on into its third year.
“There’s always a need,” McEachron said. “We serve about 75 people a month. There have been months we’ve had 100 and 102 people.
“Last year, we had 20 people in a month come in we hadn’t seen before. We had people come in we didn’t see at all in 2009. We’re seeing a lot of single parents — single fathers and single mothers who have lost their jobs or are in school.”
Those coming to Good Shepherd could be looking for clothes or goods in the second-hand thrift shop or to apply for some of the safety net programs it offers. Those include such things as cash for utility or rental assistance to families and individuals once every six months and food once every two months, emergency assistance for those who have lost their homes to fires or economic stress and help in acquiring prescription drugs.
Stretching the safety net from hunger and suffering is Good Shepherd’s all-volunteer staff.
“No one here gets a penny of salary,” McEachron said. “If we are lucky, we have a husband come in to help with the honey-do maintenance list for us.”
A board to two members from each church in the community oversees Good Shepherd, which was founded in 1987, Sheaffer said, who served as manager Tuesday.
Good Shepherd provides assistance with no government help, Sheaffer said. Private donations made during the recent Mayor’s Christmas Tree Project provided Good Shepherd a boost during the holiday season (which was a success with all the families adopted), just as donations of food and cash keep the program running 12 months a year.
“We’re still provided for,” McEachron said. “There are times we have to buy groceries, but we are blessed with the economic cuts last year, we could provide food. “
Economic realities did force Good Shepherd to eliminate food distributions to Jefferson County residents, Sheaffer said.
Of course, with the cash and food donations there are also the donations of “clean and useful” clothing, household goods and miscellaneous items, sold in the thrift shop. They are priced to provide a little extra money for the overhead costs, which helps stretch precious donor dollars, McEachron said.
But the clothing drops are also a source of frustration, as the staff constantly deals with items left at the side of the building during times other than Good Shepherd’s hours of 9 a.m. to noon, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
“We do have trouble with dumping,” McEachron said. “People need to understand when we have to pay someone to haul it away it takes away what we can spend to help people.”
Good Shepherd could use a bigger and more functional building than the old Methodist Church at the corner of Fourth and Shawnee streets, which has been its home for many years. It has looked at vacant buildings in Tonganoxie but has not found anything it could afford, McEachron said.
“Our heating and cooling bills are killing us,” McEachron said. “We need a place for 4,000 to 5,000 square feet and all on one floor and with a good parking lot — we need it all.”
McEachron started as a counter clerk and Sheaffer as a clothes sorter before becoming managers. Both say they feel blessed when they can provide help to those in need.
“There’s satisfaction in helping,” Sheaffer said. “If we weren’t here, there would be a lot of people without food or with utilities shut off.”