What began six years ago as an endeavor to clothe the needy has turned into a large-scale charity operation thar has now expanded to feed the hungry.
Gwen Bennett, 70, founder of the nonprofit Shepherd’s Hand Clothing Ministry, has opened a food pantry to serve grandparents in need who are raising grandchildren.
It started with a phone call to Bennett in November from grandmother Nancy Hayes who said she felt hopeless and was in desperate need of food for her grandbabies.
“I was hysterical that day,” Hayes said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do with food and clothes.”
Hayes said she remembered the nonprofit from a prior charity event where she received clothes from the organization.
“I just said you know what, I’m going to call this Shepherd’s Hands and I did,” Hayes said holding back tears. “And they said come.”
Bennett said volunteers prepared a car-load of food for Hayes when she arrived. That was the day Bennett said she recognized a need for a food pantry.
“I told my husband this was just a bandage, not a solution,” she said. “This is a special need. We have grandparents who are raising five, six, seven or eight grandkids alone.”
Bennett said she went on the hunt to make this vision come to fruition. She said she called her connections to put the word out about her plan and the rest was in God’s hands.
Good Shepherd Church gave Bennett space to create the pantry. The shelves used to hold the food and a refrigerator were donated. Some people went and bought groceries while many others donated dry and canned goods.
“We have had so much support,” Bennett said. “I just give all my glory to God. This town is the most generous. This community is just amazing.”
Within about two months’ time, the nonprofit had created a working pantry thanks to local support and the dozens of churches and charitable organizations in town, Bennett said.
The nonprofit is located in the back section of Good Shepherd Church where the original church used to be, 3031 Bittel. Bennett and her 36 volunteers occupy much of the building’s space working organize clothing food and upkeep at the church.
“Grandparents raising grandchildren are very strong in numbers,” Hayes said. “And there is no help for us. It’s amazing the energy you can feel from these ladies. They love people and they love God.”
Bennett said she gives all her glory to God and emphasized that “our ministry is a hand up and not a handout.”