May 6, 2021

Gartee's Story: His Journey from Foster Care to Self-Sufficiency


Amidst the constant stream of changes brought on by the past year, stability can feel like all but a distant memory. For those facing food and housing insecurity, this lack of stability can cause setbacks in the journey to self-sufficiency. This has been the experience for Gartee, a client of Shepherd’s Table.

Gartee is a Silver Spring local, having grown up in foster care in the area. After aging out of foster care at 18, Gartee understood that it would be difficult to avoid a life living on the streets. Driven by a love for sports and a strong work-ethic, he enrolled in school. There, he was able to run cross-country and earn enough credits for an associate’s degree. Before graduating with his bachelor’s, however, Gartee found himself struggling to stay focused on his goals. In reflecting on that era of his life, he remembers having too few responsibilities to keep him on track. Lacking the necessary accountability to anchor him to his ambitions, and he ultimately dropped out of college.

The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing global recession worsened circumstances for Gartee, and he found himself in the longest stint of homelessness he’s experienced. Although motivated to find a job, the past year has brought on record high unemployment numbers that have made it nearly impossible.

When Gartee first heard of the daily meals offered at Shepherd’s Table, he recognized it as an opportunity he didn’t want to miss. “Stability is the biggest thing when it comes to being homeless,” he shared. “Food, water, shelter—that’s what everyone needs.” Gartee accurately identifies a common obstacle in the journey out of homelessness. When an individual’s most basic needs are not being met and require a person’s full attention, there’s little time or energy available to work towards larger goals. At Shepherd’s Table, we begin by meeting an immediate felt need, no questions asked, so our guests have the fuel they need to identify and work through other obstacles to their self-sufficiency.

For Gartee, our food programs provided consistent meals every day of the week, which enabled him to connect with additional resources. The dependability of daily meals is critical in the journey along the continuum of care, and yet it’s only the beginning. By providing this service, we’re able to work with our guests to identify other needs and possible solutions. For Gartee, this has enabled him to pursue independent living.

Gartee is driven and hard-working, with clear and actionable goals. “I’m taking steps to get to where I need to be,” he shared with our team. He’s focused on getting back to school and pursuing sports medicine at Maryland College, planning to ultimately work as a personal trainer. To prepare for his studies, he pours over textbooks on anatomy, physiology, and psychology, eager to learn as much as possible. His discipline and history with sports will equip him to be an excellent personal trainer. In addition to his passion for sports medicine, Gartee is a talented writer and poet. He enjoys rap and spoken word, and has used both as tools to process his experiences. He’s looking forward to living in his own apartment as he steps into this next phase of his story.

As Gartee identified, every person needs dependable food, water and shelter. By meeting these needs, Shepherd’s Table offers people like Gartee a chance to pursue their goals and step into the fullness of who they are.

Jan 8, 2021

Providing Meals and Hope



2020 was a challenging year, but we also saw the community come together to help each other like never before. Covid-19 dealt a devastating blow to our clients, many of whom experienced loss of jobs, housing, family members and loved ones. The community rallied around everyone struggling to get by, and we were honored to be trusted by you to provide essential services and meals for our neighbors in need.

We supported hundreds of clients such as Deborah, who lost her job and home, and appreciates Shepherd's Table because there are meals for the homeless.

"And you don't even have to be homeless to receive help here," she said.

We supported Sean, who is experiencing unemployment, and finds comfort in accessing meals at Shepherd's Table. 

I’m going through a lot but at least I know food is something that I don’t have to worry about because of this place.” 

We kept our Resource Center open, reopened the Eye Clinic once we had the safety precautions in place, and launched a new program, Beyond the Table. We increased our impact in our community and served hundreds of new clients- families and children in need of prepared meals, adults in need of meals and assistance, and seniors struggling to access meals.

Your support, as a donor, volunteer, and advocate, made it all possible. Your ongoing support makes all the difference for those we are serving, and will continue to serve. Working together, we can do the impossible and make sure no one in our community spends a day hungry and hopeless. 

We hope you stay healthy, safe and warm in the coming months.


Sep 10, 2020

A Volunteer's Perspective: Jan Weetjens

Meal Recipient at Beyond the Table
Meal Recipient at Beyond the Table

For this report, we will share a perspective from Jan Weetjens, a regular volunteer in our Resource Center and meal programs. We spoke with Jan in July, as he has been coming in regularly to volunteer, despite COVID-19 concerns. we are grateful for him and others that have continued coming in to serve. 

Jan retired from the World Bank, with field experience in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia. As he searched for volunteer opportunities close to home, he found Shepherd’s Table and connected strongly with its mission. What he likes most about Shepherd’s Table is that “People are treated like customers. It’s a small thing but very meaningful to me: whenever possible, people are offered with a choice: do you prefer the chicken or the beef? This deodorant or that one? It validates the person, their dignity, their agency, and their right to choose.

When he’s not volunteering, Jan keeps busy with leadership and life coaching, and also studies and meditates. He enjoys being part of a team that tries to make a difference for people who find themselves in situations of hardship. He appreciates it when he can relate to somebody in their mother tongue, and is moved by all the acts of kindness he sees when volunteering at Shepherd’s Table.

He enjoys seeing people take care of each other, including a couple that just got engaged. “It’s beautiful to witness that.”

Jan has continued volunteering throughout COVID-19, as he knows the need is there, and feels safe due to the serious approach Shepherd’s Table has taken to mitigating the risk for everyone. He enjoys meeting people from all different backgrounds and ages and experiences, volunteers and clients alike. “It is one of the joys of working at Shepherd’s Table.” He believes that Shepherd’s Table strives for excellence, and really sees the person and their needs: how can we be as responsive, caring and loving as possible to this person?

I get so much out of being able to connect with people. My own humanity gets affirmed when I’m here.” 

We thank all our dedicated volunteers who have made sure all our services continue during this challanging time for everyone, especially those we serve daily. As we expand our services to feed even more people, we know we couldn't do it without the incredible support we have in the community. 

We hope you are all staying safe and healthy!

In Gratitude,


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