The afternoon when local resident Kerri Godfrey walked into the Shepherdstown Visitors Center is not one that director Marianne Davis will soon forget. From the onset of their conversation on Friday, January 18, Davis began brainstorming with Godfrey in hopes to offer local residents affected by the 2018-19 government shutdown essential assistance during their time of need.
Their words quickly grew to actions, as the two began to structure Shepherdstown Shares—a non-partisan effort to offer furloughed government employees access to a pop-up food pantry.
“It started on a Friday afternoon, and six days later, we had six thousand pounds of food,” Davis began. She explained that Godfrey expressed concerns that members of the U.S. Coast Guard, her husband included, were running out of resources—as they were required to work without pay. Davis responded, “Well, we can change that!”
“I got on the phone to the Shepherdstown Community Club, which was already raising money for Jefferson County Community Ministries, and we decided that we would divert those efforts temporarily here, and that I would advertise,” she explained. “We were fortunate in that we have a building across the street that was empty.”
Davis enlisted the assistance of her fellow Lions from the Shepherdstown Lions Club. Together, volunteers from the three organizations began setting schedules, coordinating logistics, and working with grocery retailers to create the pantry in a turn-around time of just less than a week.
That Type of Town
The food pantry, located at 108 Princess Street, opened to serve approximately 140 community members in need. Shepherdstown Shares opened their doors to all government employees who had federal identification. This allowed government workers who reside in West Virginia and neighboring states—such as Maryland and Virginia—access to the essential items and gift cards that Shepherdstown Shares was able to collect.
“We had so many extraordinary people donate,” Davis noted. “We had some people that came in here—didn’t want to leave their names—and filled our freezer with packages of beef. We had other people come in with coolers of pork.”
To make the most out of gift cards, volunteers would attempt to coordinate card distribution to recipients based on stores that would serve their needs the best.
Although federal workers were back to work on January 25, the food pantry continued to see members of the community that were still feeling the effects from the shutdown. Davis explained that government contract workers who were off without pay were among those who visited the pantry in the beginning of February. She added that the town noticed a decline in its visitors. Additionally, community members in the area, who rely on tips, saw a decline in their income. Davis stated that any service workers who needed assistance were also included in the endeavor.
“Like everything else in Shepherdstown, it runs on the backs of volunteers—and these people were extraordinary. There were Coast Guard people who volunteered, the three organizations, and people who just came out of the woodwork and helped. This is the type of town that will do that sort of thing. They see the need and they say, ‘I can fix it.’”
As of February 15, Shepherdstown Shares was no longer needed, as lawmakers narrowly avoided an additional government shutdown. Davis stated that the remainder of goods collected from the pantry were donated to local organizations and concluded at the end of the month.By Angela F. Durkin