It's Happening: The Shepherd's Corner Passion Project

By Julie Perine on July 14, 2017 from It’s Happening via Connect-Bridgeport.com

I remember the early years of Shepherd’s Corner, when the donation center was a tiny house on the street I grew up on. The operation of good will was conducted in the original convent of All Saints Catholic Church, but was, as Mary Ellen Depue told me just the other day, an ecumenical effort; one for which members of various churches and denominations were responsible.
 
Through the Bridgeport Ministerial Association, it was churches including All Saints, Bridgeport United Methodist, Simpson Creek Baptist, Bridgeport Baptist, Johnson Avenue Methodist, Bridgeport Presbyterian and St. Barnabus Church – among others – who pooled their passionate volunteers and embarked upon a project that since 1984 has clothed, fed and otherwise supported thousands of individuals.
Members of some of those churches and others provide board members and volunteers to this day.
“We’ve worked together very well and it’s just been great,” Depue said. “We still have such a good group and we have a good time while we work.”
 
In addition to volunteers from member churches, Mary Ellen told me that Shepherd’s Corner receives help from the young men and women who travel to Bridgeport to serve the community through the Mormon Church.  That started, she said, when a couple of the young men stopped in one year, asking for neckties. They didn’t just want the ties handed to them, they wanted to work. Those young men told the next pair heading to our city.
 
Mary Ellen, Shirlene Isabella, Karen Lang and many board members/volunteers spend countless hours at the facility – formerly on Third Street and now located on Pennsylvania Avenue. The building has been renovated and additions have been established. One of the most recent is an expanded donation center, where residents can drop off donations at any hour.
Mary Ellen had told me before that going through those bags is quite a labor of love. The sort items, determining which might be needed by area kids and adults, then carefully folding, laundering and otherwise preparing them. Often, the bags contain items which are useless: Pieces of broken toys, severely torn and damaged clothing and other things which donors have tossed in. Still, the hours and effort are worth it, Mary Ellen said.
 
A couple weeks ago, however, volunteers found the drop box in quite a state of disarray; in Mary Ellen’s words: “A mess.”  She and others picked up items which, rather than packed in trash bags, had just been tossed into the built-in drop boxes. After much time and effort, the area was ultimately emptied, but not for long. This time, not only were clothing items scattered throughout the drop box, but there was also bags of garbage; even waste.
 
“It was either dog or human. I didn’t inspect it,” Mary Ellen said. “It was horrible.”
 
Needless to say, many of the items donated during that time had to be thrown out and these sweet older ladies had to deal with the whole big mess.
 
After spending quite some time reviewing footage which the surveillance video had captured, Depue and others spotted a pickup truck and some suspicious activity. The individuals were busting open and untying donation bags
 
“People were getting in the donation center, undoing bags and looking through them, then putting the stuff they didn’t want – along with other items – back in,” Mary Ellen said.
 
She and her fellow volunteers recognized one of the individuals; someone who had for the past seven or eight years, received donations through the facility during hours when the doors were open to the public.
 
As you’ve likely read on Connect-Bridgeport, Bridgeport Police came to investigate the incident and a complaint was filed by Shepherd’s Corner. With the public’s help, the individuals were identified by several readers and ultimately turned themselves in. 
 
It’s not the end of the world. The mess was cleaned up and there was no lasting damage. But it breaks my heart that these community volunteers - who for decades have made this project a labor of love – had to deal with an incident like this. 
 
Depue told me that she and all others associated with Shepherd's Corner continue to appreciate the outpouring of donations. Though depositing donations in the drop boxes is still encouraged, she said it is preferred that items be brought during hours of operation - when volunteers are there on site.
The facility is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 
 
Regardless of when donations are left, I'm going to intercede a little and ask that only usable items be brought. Let's help these dedicated men and women by going through bags and taking out broken toys and other items, shoes with no matches, etc. 

The biggest need at the present time, Depue said, is hygiene items, including toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoos, etc.
 
And with school to start in another month or so, Carla Yaquinta's "Beyond the Shepherd" - operated under the Shepherd's Corner umbrella - could use new socks and underwear. Yaquinta takes those items, along with children's clothing donated to Shepherd's Corner, and takes them to area schools for kids who can use them. Carla said shorts and shirts - sizes 4 thorugh 14 - could certainly be used. To provide to her to directly benefit that program, email her at carla.yaquinto@gmail.com.
 
Both efforts are amazing ministries with the heart behind them that the Apostle Paul talks about in the 12th chapter of the book of Romans. 
 
And to all of you - working so hard through Shepherd's Corner and other area ministries and service organizations - I want to share this:
 
"But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." (2 Chronicles 15:7, written a few hundred years before the birth of Jesus as the prophet Ezra (we believe) provided encouragement. But it applies to us today too!)
 
 
 


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