Shepherd’s Pandemic Response

Pandemic response: When the world stepped off a cliff,  Shepherd Community and its partners stretched to help

In early March, before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, Shepherd Community staff had begun to prepare for what seemed would be significant — but not overwhelming — changes in neighborhood needs and center operations.

Then, within days, schools closed for the remainder of the academic year. Restaurants, hotels, and other businesses deemed nonessential ceased operations indefinitely. The city’s vibrant convention and sports sector shut down, with no return in sight.

The city and the nation went from a historically full employment rate to Depression-level unemployment at gut-churning speed. And the deep pain of sudden job loss, mounting bills and uncertain months ahead stunned families on the near east side and across America.

“I thought we had a bump,” Shepherd Executive Director Jay Height says of those early days before twin medical and economic tsunamis hit. “I didn’t think we had a cliff.”

As the initial consequences of the pandemic became clear, Height and the Shepherd team quickly pivoted to meet the surge in needs.

“The why of what we do hasn’t changed. The how has changed dramatically,” Height said. “And our neighbors’ needs have radically changed.”

Now, Shepherd is providing 500 boxes of food for east side families every Tuesday and 1000 boxes every other Tuesday; 250 meals are prepared every day and distributed to people in need; another 850 meals are prepared at Shepherd and distributed by partner organizations each week; each Friday, 400 families receive milk, bread, eggs and pork products with the help of Elanco; 80 sack breakfasts and lunches for children and 60 dinners for families are passed out every day.

Despite all of that, Height says, “We’re not even coming close yet to meeting the need.”

Beyond food, Shepherd is providing financial assistance for neighbors when possible, tax preparation services to help neighbors become eligible for federal stimulus checks, e-learning instruction and support for hundreds of students, and regular phone calls to families to scout needs and push back against isolation. A Shepherd-subsidized paramedic also helps meet health needs for the elderly and others who can’t safely visit medical clinics during the pandemic.

Height makes clear that none of this would be possible without the strong support of longtime and new partners in the community. “We have partnerships now that we never would have imagined,” he says.

Read slowly through the following list and think about the fact that the name of every organization represents a “Yes, we will help” response during a time of unprecedented uncertainty. To join this growing list of partners, visit:


Supply partners

Gleaners Food Bank: Food boxes

Safeway: Food boxes

Second Helpings: Daily dinners

HATCH, Inc: Eggs, breakfast in a bag

Elanco: Breakfast in a bag

Fair Oaks Dairy: Breakfast in a bag

Kroger: Breakfast in a Bag

Rose Acre Farms: Breakfast in a bag

Gunthrop Farms: Breakfast in a bag

Harlan Bakeries: Breakfast in a bag

Walmart: Breakfast in a bag

Indy’s Courageous Kitchen: Daily delivery meals

Voortman’s Bakery: Baked goods

Mansfield-King: Hand sanitizer

Paramount Schools: Weekly e-learning collaborative sessions

Charter Spectrum: Internet for neighbors

Olivet Nazarene University: E-learning training for teachers

Avon Parkside Church of the Nazarene: Face masks

Englewood CDC: Daily meals (delivered weekly)

Hope Training Academy: Virtual computer certifications

Codelicious: Virtual coding classes for students

Various Nazarene Churches: Crisis care kits and school pal packs

Kids Voice: Virtual staff professional development and family legal support

Honey Baked Ham: Ham

Midwest Food Bank: Food boxes


Distribution partners

Minnie Hartman: Daily meals, family food boxes, breakfast in a bag

Colonial: Daily meals, family food boxes, breakfast in a bag, eggs

Outreach, Inc: Daily meals (delivered weekly), food boxes, breakfast in a bag

Oak Street Health: Food boxes, breakfast in a bag

Youth For Christ: Food boxes

Nehemiah Church: Eggs

Kids, Inc: Eggs

Ransburg YMCA: Eggs

Wheeler Mission: Eggs

SENSE Charter School: Eggs

Purposeful Designs: Eggs, food boxes

Linwood Christian Church: Eggs

Intersection Community Church: Eggs, food boxes

Edna Martin Christian Center: Eggs

Brookside: Daily meals (delivered weekly), eggs

The Creek: Eggs

Str8 Up Ministries: Eggs

Wallace Street Baptist: Eggs

Indianapolis Emergency Medical Service, Indianapolis Fire Department, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department: “Thank you Thursday” meals

Service partners

ProAct: Delivering meals