by John Evans
A “dream come true” for a Delaware nun, Caroline County’s Samaritan House celebrates its 40th year of service this year.
Founded May 6, 1978 by Sister Anita Paul of the Catholic Church of Wilmington, it fulfilled her desire to establish a permanent way of helping citizens of the county through funds raised through a thrift shop.
Sister Anita approached the ministers of local churches about helping her to make her dream a reality. Another local nun, Sister Sally Tolles of Federalsburg, agreed with her that there was a need for such a place and believed to be successful it would need the cooperation among local churches in managing the resources for needy families.
The first formal meeting concerning the founding of the thrift shop, now located at 12 North Fifth Street in Denton, included representatives from nine churches in the county, of varying denominations. The meeting was held at the Denton Church of the Brethren. From that first gathering, an organization named United Concerned Christians of Caroline County (UCC) was created. The UCC group became incorporated as a non-profit in July 1978 and the organization distributed its first food box in May 1980. Today, the UCC oversees the management of the Samaritan House in addition to offering many other services to local residents.
The concept of the thrift store worked two ways: good used clothing was offered for sale at prices considerably lower than the stores, and funds received from the sale of such clothing, which was donated, and other items, were used to keep the store running and to help pay for some of the services offered to the needy in Caroline County. In time, the Samaritan House was expanded to include food distribution to those in need.
“We Share Because We Care” describes the mission statement for the Samaritan House, whose giving increased from 27 food boxes and 42 children receiving toys at Christmas in 1983 to 189 Christmas dinners for 545 individuals, and toys for 228 children in 2013; quite a growth over the first 30 years.
The Samaritan House’s first home was an unused garage, a far cry from its current location in downtown Denton. Today, more than 20 churches affiliate themselves with the UCC and the Samaritan House, which also receives community support from many local organizations.
In addition to its role as a thrift shop, the Samaritan House is able to offer assistance of food and clothing to those in need, provide or pay for school supplies, snacks and field trip money for local elementary schools and purchase religious books for churches. The thrift shop also receives support from volunteers who staff the shop, donations of clothing and other miscellaneous items, individual and corporate monetary donations, and donations of food and money from local churches, schools and civic organizations.
Since proceeds from the thrift shop fund the food pantry, sales made at the Samaritan House are especially important.
As far as food donation from the public are concerned, items that are canned and/or have a long shelf life are preferred. Among the items currently needed the most are Jello, soups, cereal, beef stew, applesauce, toilet paper, rice, corned beef, baked beans, fruit cocktails, dry spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, canned vegetables, peanut butter and jelly, evaporated milk and boxed macaroni and cheese. Other items accepted as donations besides food and clothing include books, toys and household items in good condition.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize just how much we do for the county,” said Claire Fisher, who is the supervisor for volunteers for the Samaritan House. Recent 2017 figures show the need for the Samaritan House in the county. In 2017, there were 2,739 filled requests for food, which benefited 7,677 people, and 2,006 clothing requests which benefited 6,102 individuals – which averages out to 228 food and 167 clothing requests per month.
A total of 81 persons volunteered at the Samaritan House, logging 11,244 hours worked. An average of 937 hours per month are worked by volunteers. “We always need volunteers,” said Fisher. “We’d like persons who plan to stay with it though.”
Not all the food distributed by the Samaritan House is donated. In order to meet demands, food is also purchased from stores. In 2017, $74,102 was spent on purchases of food, an average of $6,175 per month.
It is obvious that the Samaritan House and the UCC play an important role in the community, in making life a little better for those in need, and that it does this in many ways. “We supply items, clothing and other things to a lot of the other charities in the county, like Hospice and the Hope Haven ministry,” added Fisher. “We try to make ourselves available as much as we can as many ways as we can.”
To inquire about as to how to assist in keeping the Samaritan House a success, contact 410-479-1251, or stop by the shop, which is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, and in the evening from 5-7 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month.
If you are in need of food or clothing, please contact the Samaritan House directly and have ready the following foiur pieces of information: photo id; social security card for everyone in the household; proof of income (tax return, pay stubs); and proof of Caroline County residency (utility bill, bank account).