Good Shepherd Ministries began in 1983, as a handful of individuals had compassion for the hungry that they had encountered on the streets of Wilmington. The Soup Kitchen was born out of this compassion. They literally began serving soup and a sandwich to individuals who were hungry. As the numbers of those coming to be fed grew so did the groups need for food to prepare? Second Helpings, a food salvage program, was begun out of this increased need. This group of Good Samaritans began approaching grocery stores to ask for donations of food that could be used to prepare meals. This effort was so successful that they found themselves with more food than they could actually use before the food’s shelf life expired. Still unwilling to throw away food that surely someone could use, the decision was made to share this food with other organizations in the community and the effort now became a food salvage and redistribution program.
1987 was a year of great growth for Good Shepherd Ministries. The need was recognized for a safe place for the homeless of the community to go during the day and the Day Shelter Program was established. This program grew from just being a safe place to get out of the weather to an offering an array of services. Services were added such as, assistance getting a photo ID, mail service, phone services, assistance with prescriptions and referrals to outside agencies. A Jobs Program was later added to the Day Shelter services, in which homeless guests are paired with business or individuals in the community to complete day labor assignments. This service fills the need for affordable labor to the community as well as provides a means for the homeless to work and be productive.
While serving a growing number of homeless individuals in the Day Shelter it became apparent that there was a need to provide some type of housing for the homeless that wanted to reclaim their lives. Good Shepherd Ministries then stepped into another realm of homeless services, transitional housing with supportive services. Fourth Quarter, an 18-month program, for 26 single men and women in substance abuse recovery, opened in 1997.
It was soon realized that there was another group that had a need for transitional housing.
Military veterans that had served their country were experiencing homelessness in large numbers. The Sergeant Eugene Ashley Memorial Transitional Living Center opened in 2001 with the ability to provide an 18-month program for 23 veterans in substance abuse recovery. This program opened in the old Washington Catlett or Delgado School. Good Shepherd Ministries recognized the building as a perfect home for the Ashley Program and renovated this historic building. This effort not only provided a needed home for the veterans but also saved a wonderful piece of Wilmington’s history.
In 2002 it became apparent that the Good Shepherd Soup Kitchen and Day Shelter would need to move from its home at Church of the Good Shepherd on Queen St. It was at this time that the Soup Kitchen found an emergency home at First Baptist Church and the Day Shelter found a home on Wrightsville Avenue. Plans then began for a building project that Good Shepherd Ministries could call their own. Property was purchased on Martin Street for this project. In June 2003, Phase I of this plan was completed and Good Shepherd Ministries opened at 811 Martin Street. This modern, 11,000 sq. ft. building was the new home for administrative offices, the Soup Kitchen, the Second Helpings Program, and the Day Shelter. The Day Shelter Program expanded its services to its homeless guests by adding a medical screening clinic in 2004. This clinic was an immediate success providing much needed essential medical assistance.
An Overnight Shelter was part of the original plan for the new Good Shepherd building however capital funds fell short of what was needed. The decision was made to build in two phases, the overnight shelter being Phase II. No one was sure how long it might be before Phase II would come to fruition. For ten years St. James Episcopal Church had operated an emergency shelter in their basement six months out of the year. In 2004, the parishioners of St. James made the decision to make a significant seed money donation for the building of Phase II in honor of the churches’ 200th Anniversary and the Overnight Shelter was on its way to becoming a reality. In October 2005, 118 beds were opened to the homeless in the region.
From a few hands in 1983 to a host of hands in 2007 Good Shepherd continues to serve the hungry and homeless as the largest provider of homeless services in the region. Because of the wide scope of services offered under the Good Shepherd umbrella, a name change was made in 2006 and Good Shepherd Ministries began doing business as Good Shepherd Center. No matter what the name the heart of Good Shepherd remains the same…YOU! Thank you for all of you that have had part in Good Shepherd’s history for the past 24 years.