Shepherd’s Office: Food, support offered with acceptance

June 10, 2024

The Shepherd’s Office has become a local landmark in Georgetown. Those in need know it’s a safe place to get a meal, clothing, personal hygiene kits, and support. Others recognize the mustard yellow house as a place to offer volunteer time and service, support, and prayers.

This non-profit agency, one of the Food Bank of Delaware’s 200-plus community partners, started just seven years ago, and unfortunately, the need now is greater than ever. Greta Browning, assistant director, has the numbers to prove it. Just a week ago, for example, The Shepherd’s Office served 283 meals in one day. “That’s a record high,” said Browning. She receives no salary, though she works six days a week. “We don’t go by titles here. It’s a ministry , not a job. There’s no paid staff. I started as a volunteer.”

Browning also knows what it’s like to be homeless. Years ago, after a divorce, she was evicted and literally left on the street; she landed in a Salvation Army shelter. Eventually she had to call her brother to bring her home, but she was able to pick up the pieces. She earned a degree in human services, relying on her faith to deal with the challenges.

The day after the record high, the agency served 262 meals; numbers seem to be lower if it’s raining., but still exceed 200, Browning said.

The meals – serving starts at 4 p.m. except on Saturdays – are prepared by what Browning calls “the crockpot people.” So, crockpot people volunteer to make meals either on site, or Shepherd’s Office can loan a crockpot, provide meat and meal fixings. Cooks can prepare food at home, then deliver.

“We need 20 crockpots a day to fed the masses. Some just drop them off. That’s great! I’ll take whatever you can do, even it’s just two hours a week,” she said.
Much of the dinner ingredients come from the Food Bank, but Perdue and Mountaire donate chickens. Thanks to grant funding, fresh produce is available from Fifer’s and Stag farms. “We love that. When we get fresh vegetables, people are so delighted. Strawberries last week! They were like gold!”

Was The Shepherd’s Office always so busy? No! Early on, most days 70-100 people were served each day.

Times have changed, and the tough economy is hard on people who are struggling. “For some families, we are the only way to get food,” Browning noted. “It’s the economy, prices. A family with two children came in, and they were so embarrassed. They needed car repairs, so they came here for food.”

While The Shepherd’s Office receives community health services from both Beebe Healthcare and Bayhealth as well as substance abuse treatment from Banyan, Sussex Pregnancy Center, and other agencies, Browning marvels at the daily counts. “There’s definitely been an uptick. I never saw these numbers.”

Fortunately, there are also groups of loyal and committed volunteers from United Church, various homeowners’ associations, families who prepare meals, a local organization who sponsors vouchers that pay for laundry. “If you bring a single crockpot, we’re thrilled. The answer is always ‘yes’. We serve without judgment,” she added.

Lynn, a Millsboro-area retiree, along with her husband, and their neighbor, Tricia, volunteer regularly – meal preparation and whatever needs to be done. “They do the work of God here,” said Lynn. She and her husband relocated to the area at the start of COVID. She said she was looking for a charity to support, but did not want to cook. Initially, she supported The Shepherd’s Office through an Easter food drive, through prayer. “It hung in my heart,” she said. She and her husband eventually decided “We might as well come and help. I feel so blessed. This brings me joy; it’s such a wonderful organization, and when I start talking about it, I’m recruiting people.”

For more information about The Shepherd’s office, call (302) 858-4547 or visit www.shepherdsoffice.org. 

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