When Luther Slay became founding director of the Shepherd’s Storehouse 30 years ago, he couldn’t help but remember the golden advice his father had given him as a child.
“I was a young boy growing up in Mississippi,” Slay said. “My dad died when I was 14 years old. I can remember him teaching me one thing that stuck with me all these years, and that is: Always give more than what is expected of you. Life will be sweeter.”
Slay used that advice to develop the Shepherd’s Storehouse, a home-found ministry completely volunteer operated. He’s been director of the operation since 1989, and the goal back then was the same as it is today: Love and help your fellow man.
The Shepherd’s Storehouse provides food, clothes and utilities to families in need, and their mission gets extra busy during the holidays.
For 25 years the ministry has sponsored the Angel Tree program, an opportunity for community members to provide clothes and toys to children and their families at Christmas. This year, nearly 200 kids are already signed up.
The ministry will hold its big giveaway for Angel Tree recipients Dec. 22.
In addition to toys and clothes, families will also receive a turkey sponsored by PointBank, along with other traditional foods typically found on the table during Christmas lunch.
Slay said that nobody is entitled to the provisions at Shepherd’s Storehouse, although many people think they are.
It can be a thankless job, but the volunteers aren’t in it for praise.
“The Bible teaches to love and help one another,” Slay said. “In Biblical days, if a citizen passed a Roman soldier on the street, the soldier could command him to carry his armor. The law said that you had to carry the soldier’s armor for one mile, and after that mile you could put it down. Jesus taught, if he requires you to carry it one mile, carry it two miles. Go beyond what’s expected.”
The nonprofit ministry is completely supported by the community. All employees are volunteers that rotate shifts working every other day. Some even work full time to keep everything up and running.
Local businesses and churches also do their part to financially support the charitable operation, but Slay said, money is not usually a problem.
“Seems like in our case, whenever our funds get low, God knows about it and just sends somebody down here to pick up the slack,” Slay said. “A lot of times people I’ve never seen before in my life just walk in the door and give us money, and I never see them again. Just when we need it, it comes.”
Slay added that the ministry has an abundance of people supporting it, including about 40 tight-knit, year-round volunteers along with several local businesses.
“The people in the communities are very generous,” Slay said. “Any time there’s a need they meet it, time and time again. Overall, the total effort we have here is possible because of the amazing grace of God. So we say, ‘To God be the glory.’”