Labor of Love

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Shepherd's Table serves up meals all year long

By John Barnhart

The Shepherd’s Table served its annual pre-Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday, feeding 106 people turkey with dressing and gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.


    It’s a labor of love. The Shepherd’s table provides free hot lunches to people in Bedford who are in tight financial circumstances.

    The group doesn’t just serve on Thanksgiving, although that’s how it got started. The Shepherd’s Table began serving in May 1991. Serving Thanksgiving meals in 1989 and 1990 indicated that there was a need in the community.

    Tom Foster, who has been involved with Shepherd’s Table since the beginning, said that the organization gets support from area businesses, churches, individuals as well as help from foundations. of church government, the presbytery is the first level above the local congregation. It consists of clergy plus lay representatives from each congregation.

    The Shepherd’s Table serves lunch on Monday, Wednesday and Friday all year and serves an average of 140 to 150 people at each meal. The organization has served 140,000 meals over the last 17 years. Foster said that there have been some times when they’ve had as many as 200 people come in.

    “We want to thank companies, churches and individuals that have contributed, and a great big thanks to all our volunteers,” said Foster.

    Charlotte Duis has long been a member of the Shepherd’s Table board of directors. She first started helping with the Thanksgiving meal in the early ‘90s. She began coming in to cook after retiring from her job as a high school math teacher. She also coordinates volunteers for Wednesday meals.

    Duis said that most days, various area churches bring in volunteer crews that do everything from cooking to serving. She is a member of Bedford Lutheran Church.

    Emilee McDaniel, a sophomore at Jefferson Forest High School (JFHS), was the youngest volunteer at Wednesday’s meal. She chose that as a service project, however it’s not her first time there. She said she has served three or four times during the summer.

    Why did she get involved?

    “My grandparents did it,” she replied when asked that question.

    Doug and Phyllis McDaniel serve there and asked their granddaughter to help one day when they were shorthanded.

    “I really enjoy it,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

    McDaniel has college plans. She would like to go to small school, but added that a big school offers more sports.

    “I want to be an athletic trainer,” she said.

    She hopes to attend college on a track scholarship. McDaniel is on JF’s cross country, track and soccer teams. She said that she placed 5th in the state in the 500 meter event last year.

    Right now, she’s focused on something closer.

    “Yesterday was exactly one month until Christmas,” she noted.

    Several churches brought in various items for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner and cooked turkeys. Some of the bread rolls served were homemade, as was the pie.

    Foster said that Shepherd’s Table is doing OK financially, although the organization has had to dip into savings to cover costs this year. The organization is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit and donations are tax deductible. Donations can be sent to 217 West Washington Street, Bedford, Va. 24523. For more information about Shepherd’s Table, call Foster at (540) 586-4156.

    “And no government,” he noted.

    Foster, who is a member of Bedford Presbyterian, said that the Presbytery of the Peaks is one source of funding. He said the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) has a national program to collect money for food. It’s collected as a special offering in each church and goes to the local presbytery, which distributes it. Under the Presbyterian system