The Good Shepherd Center is a multi denominational ministry established in 1991 to be of service to the economically challenged of the greater Greenville community. The Center shows concern for all individuals who enter our doors regardless of creed, race, nationality or lifestyle. The Good Shepherd Center became a reality out of the commitment of 12 area churches and has grown to 24 Board Member Congregations today. Our growth has been consistent.
In the past 5 years our monthly food pantry clients have increased from 180 to 300 households. Emergency food distributions are made to those in need and crisis distributions are issued when registered clients express an increased household need. The Center also provides holiday food baskets at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 1991 we provided 12 Easter baskets, in 1995, 232 and in 2006, 330 distributions each for Thanksgiving and Christmas were made. The service area of our food pantry is the Greenville, Transfer, and specific areas in Jamestown, Mercer, and Fredonia. Individuals from other localities are encouraged to apply at the food pantry in their vicinity but are assisted if there is no alternative. In 1998 we began a self serve pantry where individuals are able to select the items they most need and prefer. And in 2003 we were blessed to purchase a small cinder block building in downtown Greenville for our food pantry that allows easy access and privacy for those we serve.
The initial idea of a food pantry has, over time expanded to encompass a full time ministry. In addition to food, also provided is clothing, shelter, rent and utility assistance, crisis intervention, budget counseling, a free medical clinic, educational and motivational opportunities, and a holiday used toy program. Because we realize that we cannot be all things to all people, we actively and cooperatively network with other social service agencies and ministries whenever possible.
Networking is vital, as it not only stretches our resources, but also helps eliminate duplication of services. During the day we receive many phone calls and are often able to provide individuals with options through referrals.
At Christmas we provide items for the children we serve. In the past, through local outreach programs, each child received at least 2 or 3 new books. Many of our Board Member Churches have sponsored mitten, hat, underwear, socks, and pajama drives. On previous Christmases, we have had a used toy workshop manned by volunteers who took the time to clean, repair, paint, and scrub good quality used toys. We then offer a day when our clients and any member of the community in need has the opportunity to receive new and/or “like new” toys and other items at no cost. The results of that program this past year were 214 children received gifts for Christmas.
Our Clothes Closet clothing store is open to the public and clothing is available at low cost and upon request, no charge. In 2008, clothing gift certificates were issued to those in need totaling over $40,000. We rely on good quality donations of used clothing to stock our store. In October of 1998 we added Treasures, a separate area that offers small miscellaneous household items and occasionally furniture, bikes and appliances for a minimal price or at no cost to those in need.
The Good Shepherd Center Free Medical Clinic was established in January 1994. The mission of The Clinic is to provide services to individuals who are ineligible for medical assistance and unable to afford health insurance. The service areas for our Free Clinic include Greenville, Transfer, Jamestown, Hadley, and Fredonia addresses. Patient visits average 3 -5 per week. UPMC Horizon Greenville Hospital has been extremely supportive in providing donations of furniture, x-ray and lab services at no cost to us. A local pharmacy, The Medicine Shoppe, dispenses our prescriptions and many times only bill us at their cost. Through the efforts of UPMC Horizon employees we were also able to establish a pharmaceutical company Indigent Drug Programs .. Local physician offices donate medical supplies. The Free Clinic is staffed from a pool of physicians and nurses who volunteer their time and skills.
In June of 1996 we began serving monthly hot meals to individuals of our area. We have an open door policy and do not require a sign in. When we began we did not have kitchen facilities and all food was prepared off site and transported to The Center for serving. In February of 1997 we were blessed with a new kitchen through a grant from one of our Board Member Congregations. We now serve our evening hot meals twice a month and serving weekly Thursday noon lunches. We average 125 individuals served each evening meal and deliver to 35 shut-ins. Our Thursday lunch serves approximately 45 folks. Through this program 5,500+ individuals in need of food and/or fellowship were served during 2008.
We provide emergency/transient shelter to individuals or families. Our current project, in cooperation with Mercer County Community Counseling, is for Bridge /Transitional Housing onside.
We continually look for ways to motivate and educate our clients. We realize that although we may provide food and clothing, without incentive and opportunity people will still be hungry and uneducated. We host growth opportunity seminars and provide each client with a copy of our Board Member Church worship schedules. We invite and encourage them to attend church regularly and to find strength in their faith for their daily lives.
We know that it is only through Christ that any of us will find our way. The Good Shepherd Center has long-range goals and vision for the future. We firmly believe that the ministry of The Good Shepherd Center is God’s work and He will lead the way through the coming years. “Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do and lead me on a safe path. Ps 27: 11” We continue to be His servants and faithful followers.