by Kelly Richard
Ethel Shepherd was inspired 25 years ago in her small town of Mountain Grove, Missouri to pursue her mission through God to distribute food and clothing to those in her area. With her vision she approached her church pastor and asked him for his blessing to begin her service through the church. Pastor John Chasteen agreed and she began to distribute food and clothing from the basement furnace room of the Church. She claims that they began with only three shelves!
Ethel learned that she could receive surplus food through Ozark Food Harvest and immediately signed up for the program. She and another church member began driving to Springfield, Missouri, where Ozarks Food Harvest is located to pickup their supply of food. Ethel would drive every 2-3 months to load anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of food to take back to Mountain Grove. As the word got out about her benevolence, the need for a larger space increased. People were coming to the doors of Ethel’s Love Center for help more and more, but Ethel could only manage so much with her small space in the basement of her church. She and her husband began to search for a way to expand the Love Center to accommodate those in need in the community. Three individuals stepped forward from the church congregation to offer their construction skills. People began to donate money and time into the project and by 1998, the new Love Center was completed.
As the years went on, Ethel and her team made several trips each month to Ozarks Food Harvest for groceries and commodities to keep up with the growing need for food assistance from the Love Center. Ethel’s Love Center serves over 600 people each month. Even today, after 25 years of service with her pantry, Ethel still makes the hour long trip to Springfield and back to pick up the groceries that her community needs. Ethel is now 80 years old but still pursues her mission in the Lord to serve her community. She now runs the Love Center with 8 other volunteers from Tuesday through Friday each week.