Shepherd’s Hand means community. They are here for us, when you are down and out and you don’t have insurance and you can’t go see a doctor, so you don’t have to suffer. They are super friendly, it’s a great place to come and you meet people too. I always think when I’m here how thankful I am because I know in other places people are waiting for days in a hot parking lot with kids to see a doctor, and I’m thinking we come in here and have dinner. I feel very blessed and lucky to live in this area because of Shepherd’s Hand.
Almost every experience really is exceptional, because you come back and get to know people and they recognize you and they want to talk to your kids when you bring them. It’s just really family oriented, I mean every really doctor’s special, and the nurses are super nice. There is no judging.
I have been [in the Flathead Valley] about 35 years. Originally from eastern Washington, a little time in California, didn’t care for it and then came back up here for the ski area, it’s the best one that’s opened up. At this point, at 80 years old I think basically it’s very simple, I just try and get up in the morning and ask, “What are we going to do today, Lord?” and let Him guide me through the day. That’s the most important [to me]; my Christianity, my religion, my belief and that can show up and result in many different ways during the day. It’s [at Shepherd’s Hand] when I’m involved, which is what we are here for anyways – to somehow serve others. It might also just be as simple as listening to your granddaughter talk about something she’s having a problem with and relating to your family in such a way that they know that you really care. It can be all kinds of things, you just never know. [My hobbies include] reading, hiking, walking – more walking than hiking now. Reading. Music. Listening, I have a couple of grand-girls, so spectating sports and so forth. And volunteer work, besides this, I do some other work too.
I started [volunteering] in ’95, had a break, and then came back. It’s been a couple times where I [volunteered] and then I quit and then I came back, but a total would be about nine years. I’m pretty much on my own, yeah my wife passed away a while ago, and this is sort of my volunteer thing.
[Shepherd’s Hand] means everything to me, as far as relating to people that are hurting and maybe temporarily below where they want to be and they have no other choices right now as far as medical and dental and so forth. But a place like this just means a lot of taking care of people in need and who need help for many different reasons. Even the meals, you see people coming for meals and sometimes this is their meal and they maybe have one or two other places during the week that serve meals and sometimes that’s all that they can afford; they can’t go to restaurants or even grocery stores. Even those people, who don’t see the doctors or dentists, they have needs also, basic needs.
Bob Grady, a long time volunteer at Shepherd's Hand
“Being able to go to work [means a lot to me], heck, it’s rough; when I was down in Idaho I was homeless. I was homeless for a year, and halfway through that, I had a heart attack. My doctor told me I was pretty up-beat considering everything that had happened to me, I mean I had my mom and my dad, my cat and my dog all die on me within ten months of each other. But I kept moving on.
I live in Whitefish, in an RV park, it’s cheaper there than anywhere else. I like playing computer games, most of the time my job requires me to be ready 24/7. I drive a taxi for the railroad – my job makes it so I don’t have a lot of spare time, I do a little bit of work on my RV where I am living. I still don’t have running water.
Now [Shepherd’s Hand has] more information on my health than anybody else in the area and I have to get an evaluation done for the DMV, otherwise they will suspend my license for health reasons. If my license gets suspended, I can’t work. [Shepherd’s Hand has] been pretty handy.”
[My hobbies include] golf. I’m not golfing this year just because of health issues but I like to get outside if I can and fish, golf. [What I value most in life is my] family by far. Bottom line, well family and health; without health you don’t have family. Yeah, but the people [at Shepherd’s Hand] are really great, they really take care of you and they are nice.
It means a place where I can come and get some help when I financially can’t get it. I just lost my job this spring, so that’s what brought me here. I came in here years ago when it first started. I heard about it and came in once and then I got hurt again and didn’t have the financials to do it so we came back in again.
You know, you’ve got volunteers from the moment you walk in to the moment you walk out. These doctors I know work a lot of hours and they work hard and to donate their time like that is really commendable. Well, just this whole process is incredible. Leon, Shepherd's Hand Free Clinic patient
I’ve got some family up here [in Whitefish]. That’s why I moved up here, I was offered a job by a relative. Being able to go to work [means a lot to me], heck, it’s rough; when I was down in Idaho I was homeless. I used to drive a truck, and I was put on insulin so I couldn’t drive a truck anymore. While I was trying to get a waiver to drive, I ran out of money and wasn’t able to get it – I had insurance back then, but I couldn’t get any money out of insurance in order to pursue getting back to work. I was homeless for a year, and halfway through that, I had a heart attack. My doctor told me I was pretty up-beat considering everything that had happened to me, I mean I had my mom and my dad, my cat and my dog all die on me within ten months of each other. But I kept moving on. When I had my heart attack, the first hospital that they took me to couldn’t do anything to me – they turned me away, they took me to another city.
I moved up here from southern Idaho two years ago, I moved up here to take the job. I live in Whitefish, in an RV park, it’s cheaper there than anywhere else. I like playing computer games, most of the time my job requires me to be ready 24/7. I drive a taxi for the railroad – my job makes it so I don’t have a lot of spare time, I do a little bit of work on my RV where I am living. I’m still camping out, I still don’t have running water.
[Shepherd’s Hand] means a place where somebody can go and get medical help, basic medical help if you don’t have the capability of having health insurance. I still don’t have health insurance. Now [Shepherd’s Hand has] more information on my health than anybody else in the area and I have to get an evaluation done for the DMV, otherwise they will suspend my license for my health reasons. If my license gets suspended, I can’t work. [Shepherd’s Hand has] been pretty handy. The pharmacy I went through here is a half a block from where I live, Shepherd’s Hand has been real helpful. Clay, patient from Whitefish
My name is Jody and I’m from Michigan originally, Port Huron, near Lake Huron and north of Detroit. [My hobbies are] prospecting, prospecting for gold and other minerals; a lot of martial arts training for most of my life, another place where spiritual things happen; swimming, I like to go in the water.
I feel like I’m a spiritual person in the sense that I am somebody that the spirit works through. Wherever I go, I bring the Holy Spirit for that reason and I’ve always been different all my life in that way. Things like this service is spiritual because you know the spirit is serving this world for you. It’s better for your psychology, and you know you’re being taken care of, no matter where it comes from. It might be like ‘it’s the least we can do’ but being able to help each other is spiritual for that reason. It’s a warm feeling that someone’s going to help you. In a way, I feel like I am a spiritual teacher amongst my people wherever I go: if I’m just at work, wherever I make friends, I have that influence in life. That’s why I’m a spiritual person.
I think your sense of well-being is probably the most important thing [to value] because that’s what you’re going to take everywhere you go. I was thinking earlier how people get their priorities in the wrong order. They put money first and then see if they’re happy or not. Sometimes you got to take a little bit less money to have more happiness. You might be giving up your happiness for the money. A lot of times people do that to keep the right status, appearance, and things like that and then all of that work and then you’re not happy. So, your sense of well being is what you’re going to take with you in this life or in the next.
A friend of mine, who just went back to see the dentist [at Shepherd’s Hand], she’s been having a hard time with pain meds causing her to lose her teeth. And so, none of the insurance provided gives her dental care. I don’t understand that. You know the mouth is an important part of your body. I don’t understand why insurance doesn’t cover that. It means a lot to have dental care. It’s a very special service. It’s expensive to see the dentist.
I feel [Shepherd’s Hand] is a very good place, it’s hard to explain how I feel you know? Because it’s deep, I mean I’ve only been here a few weeks and anybody I mention the place to, it’s a nice place. [There is] a free meal every week and it’s good food, you guys don’t serve somebody else’s leftovers to the public. I just think they’re doing a really good job here, I think that’s a lot to offer somebody, especially with the free dental service. I haven’t seen a program like this before. I can tell there is something very special going on here, I already give it a thumbs up.
Jody, patient from Kalispell
I’ve lived all over the world but I’ve been here for 20 years in the valley and I raised two kids on my own for about ten years, so I really know what it’s like. When I was a single mom, there weren’t places like [Shepherd’s Hand] and so it really means a lot to me to be able to help out my friends and to help our community with this. You always think that it’s for people that are homeless or dirty but they are people – everybody is a person and it is important that we all stand together for them, that’s what [Shepherd’s Hand] means.
I love to be outdoors, and helping people in our homes, growing plants, flowers, hiking and stuff like that. I have some medical issues myself and so I understand being held back by some of those because I can’t do a lot of things I used to do.
My girlfriend and her husband, neither one of them have insurance and coming [to Shepherd’s Hand] is a miracle, really, because there are people here that are willing to help people that are less fortunate. [My friends] are living with us and barely making it, so it kind of helps us out and it helps them out – it’s all about the community standing together. Helping each other, like the way it should be.
Being there for people, that’s the most important thing and family – family can be friends, family can be somebody that is just reaching out and giving your smile, and changing your day that way, or this, this standing up for people. That’s the most important thing in the world for me.
Kerie, patient from Columbia Falls
The opportunity to volunteer at Shepherd’s Hand as a medical student was an invaluable experience. The patients I was able meet were some of the most warmhearted and appreciative patients I have worked with, despite facing some of life’s most serious challenges. As a medical student I was encouraged to take the lead in managing my patient’s care. What really made the experience unique was the lack of time pressure often felt during clinic. This allowed me to spend as much time as needed to truly understand the concerns of my patients so that together we could come up with the best plan. This level of autonomy helped me take the next step in my medical education. The experience of volunteering at Shepherd’s Hand and the opportunity to work with patients that have such considerable need, yet are so grateful, is a good reminder of why I chose to pursue a career in medicine.
Danielle McQuinn, a third year medical student at the University of Washington Medical School
To Shepherd’s Hand Staff: I would like to share some of my experiences at the clinic. I have been coming here about every other week for close to two years. My life has changed with your help. You make a difference in my life. What follows is my ‘hall experiences’ I feel they reflect changes in my life.
“Unaware my senses have gone into overdrive; with trepidation I approach the place. I open the door and my heart skips a beat. I once again seek the help I have yet to find. Immediately the smell of a wholesome meal greets me but dining does not appeal to me. Down the hall I go and settle in to wait. The line grows long with people crowding in. Unfortunately crowds are not my thing. I think escape but hesitate and convince myself to wait. Help will come. This must be done so I wait. To cope I hang my head, cover my ears and close my eyes. Still I am bombarded with overwhelming noises and smells. Chaos reigns all around me and in my mind. The problem is mine not anyone else’s. I must endure this to receive help. My heart is racing, my ears are ringing and I start shaking. The walls close in and I know a panic attach has set in. I need to escape yet I stay and wait. Crows bomb dive me screaming and pecking. I cannot wait. Then some relief comes. Laden with papers and clipboards here you come to greet us. I rush through the paperwork in hast so I can escape to a quieter place to wait again feeling small relief from escaping the hall. Over time I come to realize that in your kindness most of the time I have become one of the first names called and no longer wait for hours. Thanks you. Waiting is extremely hard for someone like me. I am coping the best I can. With your consideration my ‘hall’ experience has changed. I am more grateful than I can express. I still arrive at the same time. My senses are not always in overdrive as I enter the door. I no longer wait in angst. Chaos does not reign and instead most of the time I settle in comfortably. I hear your chatter but push it away. I must admit when I hear the quiet settle in I feel the need to listen in. This is when the prayer is said it soothes my soul. The commotion is about to begin so I am off to hide once again and wait. The wait is much easier than it used to be. I recognize the extra steps you have taken to allow me shortcuts and am extremely grateful. Please know that no matter what my state of mind may be at any given time I am forever thankful in my heart. Now I see them as you go about your tasks at hand. Yes, your wings really are there. I know not if others see them but I know they are there. I see you are angels at work here. You really do care. You are a blessing in my life. Thank you!”
When you walk into Shepherd’s Hand you are walking into a family. In every room throughout the church you are welcomed with a smile, warm words and love much like coming home after a brief time away.
Shepherd’s Hand isn’t just for those in the community that are in need, but it is a gathering place for anyone.
On Monday nights, you will see the community gather together laughing, talking and getting to know each other over dinner, prepared by local churches and volunteers.
As I walked the halls on Monday nights my heart was heavy as I saw community members of all ages ill but I also smiled with joy as I saw everyone lifted by the volunteers. I was able to witness the medical community; church communities and others come together and watch Christ work through individuals as they touched the lives of others.
In the weeks that I have observed Shepherd’s Hand I too have been called upon to share the words of others and elaborate on the story of Shepherd’s Hand.
Shepherd’s Hand isn’t for one person or a group of people it is for anyone that needs its many services.
As I spoke with doctors, volunteers, clients and board members they each have said, that this clinic is truly one of a kind.
Everyone I have spoke to and I have also witnessed that when you are there you are not just a client but also a human being.
One client told me that he has been coming for years and continues to come back because when he does he is not treated as a dollar sign or just another appointment. “They honestly care and talk to you like a human being,” he said.
This was just one man’s story; the amazing thing about Shepherd’s Hand is that there are so many stories that make it the community outreach it is today. It began as a small clinic in downtown Whitefish and has grown into something larger as the need has changed for the community.
Several board members told me that as long as there is a need, Shepherd’s Hand will be in the community.
Shepherd’s Hand Board President Tony Patterson said, “As much as the clients get we get more.” Patterson and other board members each expressed how much this clinic means to them individually – spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
Every part of Shepherd’s Hand is an integral part of the whole family. There are dozens of volunteers that help make Monday nights run smoothly from putting dinner on the table, registering clients, attending to clients and more.
In the weeks I observed at Shepherd’s Hand I saw the family come together for every single person that walked through the doors. Everyone is welcomed and treated with love.
written by Julia Cummings
Shepherd’s Hand volunteers are the heart of the many services it provides to the community. There are hundreds of volunteers that help throughout the year and in each part of Shepherd’s Hand – clinic, community meal, and wellness.
Several volunteers expressed why they continue to serve weekly or monthly at Shepherd’s Hand for personal and community reasons. The volunteers each give their time and resources willingly expecting nothing in return.
Volunteer Kim Fredericks lives in Montana half the year and California the other half. For ten years Kim worked for, The Jungle, a homeless encampment in California. “Shepherd’s Hand filled that need in me,” she said. “I am so impressed with the job they do. People are surprised we are so welcoming and that feels great.”
Board member Bridget Wirth, RN said, “I am motivated by faith and giving back. I am very much a people person.” Leads the Move to Improve program that started in 2013. “I cheerlead for them,” she said smiling. Bridget added that Shepherd’s Hand is a passion of hers and has been since she started volunteering a year after the program began.
Intake volunteer Kathy Akey has been volunteering for 18 years. Kathy said the services have continued to evolve and every time there is a need it is addressed. “It is a welcoming place without judgment.”
Greeter and volunteer for over 10 years, Belinda Delgado said, “It is one of the most worthwhile programs that I have seen. The patients are proud of the program and often ask how they can give back.” She said that since she was a little girl her faith has played a large roll in her life and she continues to use everything she has learned including to help others and give back. “Once I go I am so excited I came and leave happy,” she said smiling.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10
Jim Cummings a board member and community meal leader said, “Faith is a huge part.” He added, “I have been blessed in my life and I want to give something back.”
Hospitality volunteer Mike Conway said, “It’s a duty for those of us who have had a good life to give some of my time back.” He said, “I think about it every weekend, I look forward to it.”
These volunteers and dozens of others come together each week to help and welcome community members, and make everyone feel part of the Shepherd’s Hand family.
written by Julia Cummings