September 8, 2010 Edition

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Shepherd Care ministry is thriving

Zola Brewer, a volunteer, straightens a rack of clothing at Shepherd Care.

Leroy Scudder weighs a bag of clothing at Shepherd Care. He oversees the clothing ministry, which is a project of the Lawrence County Ministerial Alliance.
John Bland

Shepherd Care, a non-profit clothing ministry of the Lawrence County Ministerial Alliance, is operating with the efficiency and professionalism of a successful clothing retailer.

Located at 111 Southeast Front Street, just down from the Walnut Ridge Police Department and a half a block off Main Street, Shepherd Care's interior is bright, clean and neat. The store is filled with organized and labeled racks of clothing categorized by boys', girls', men's, ladies', as well as sub-categories, such as ladies' slacks or ladies' jeans.

On a recent morning, Fred Casper, the only paid staff member, was helping people unload and carry in their donations of bags, boxes and armloads of clothing and shoes.

Leroy Scudder, manager of Shepherd Care, was weighing clothes selected by clients, while volunteers Grace Chastain of the Imboden Extension Homemakers Club, John Stoll of Friendship Methodist Church of Ravenden and Lisa Lamb of Walnut Ridge were among those in the back of the building busily sorting, labeling, folding and hanging the donated clothing.

"We keep good, fresh, clean clothes on the racks with clothes coming in almost daily," said Leroy Scudder, who is also in his third year as president of the Ministerial Alliance.

"We have a wide range of inventory for virtually every member of the family," Scudder said.

To keep the clothing season-appropriate, the summer stock will soon be taken off the racks and replaced with winter clothing.

To better track inventory, a new procedure was begun in August. Clothing is now marked with color-coded stickers to signify the month that the clothing was placed on the rack. Clothing that does not move after a few months will be removed.

"People are finding that our merchandise is very acceptable," Scudder added. Stained, torn or even extremely outdated clothing is given to the Oasis Ministries in Jonesboro. Oasis picks up this clothing and ships it overseas.

Policy change is turning point

Last year was a turning point for Shepherd Care. In April 2009, the ministry began asking clients to donate 50 cents a pound for clothing. "We were within two months of closing. The Lord just laid (the idea) in our lap," Scudder said.

"It has allowed us to stay open. Otherwise, we would have closed a year and a half ago," he said.

"Since its inception (in 2001), Shepherd Care has been funded by donations, so now the clients are being asked to help."

Shepherd Care's budget remains approximately $800 a month with primary expenses being utilities and rent. "We are solvent," Scudder said.

Shepherd Care has been successful enough to aid another ministry. In May, the Ministerial Alliance committed to donating $100 a month for a year to The Children's Shelter.

In July 2009, Shepherd Care moved to its new location. It had been located at 710 Highway 67B North, Walnut Ridge, for approximately eight years.

Shepherd Care is in the process of buying the building from Darrell Blaylock, who is allowing the ministry to apply rent payments toward the purchase of the building through a four-year agreement.

With the new clothing policy and the new location, Shepherd Care has seen almost double the amount of traffic at the ministry.

"We have a wider client base but are still serving those in need, as well as lower income people," Scudder said. August was a particularly busy month as the ministry supplied clothing for school kids.

Shepherd Care originally started as the vision of a College and Careers Class of the First Free Will Baptist Church in Walnut Ridge, Scudder said.

The clothing ministry was first located in one room of the church's parsonage, but it quickly outgrew that space. Rev. Steve Trail, pastor at the church at the time, sought the help of the Ministerial Alliance, and that organization adopted it as a project.

Volunteers always needed

"We are constantly in need of (volunteer) workers," Scudder said. Interested workers are urged to come by Shepherd Care during its operating hours as there is no telephone. Volunteers include members of the Imboden Extension Homemakers Club, various church members and other individuals.

Fred Casper began volunteering at the ministry soon after it first opened, and he eventually became a paid staff member.

Zola Brewer of Hoxie said she has been volunteering with the ministry for almost seven years. After the death of her husband, Carl Brewer, volunteering gave her a needed activity. "We benefit a lot of people, and we appreciate those who donate," she added.

Shepherd Care is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Saturday hours were added the first of this year and have become as busy as other days, Scudder said.

There is a drop box located in front of the building for after-hours donations. They request that people only leave clothing donations.

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