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Shepherd Center celebrating 40 years

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Published:   |   Updated: March 6, 2014 at 09:34 AM

TARPON SPRINGS — After 40 years of serving and assisting North Pinellas’ less-fortunate, the Tarpon Springs Shepherd Center is taking a few hours Saturday to reflect.

The interfaith nonprofit group’s 2014 fundraising gala at Riverside Grille House will celebrate its past, current and future achievements, as well as the honoring of individuals integral in fostering its existence.

“Right now we’re in a really good stride,” Executive Director Michael Herrera said of the state of the Shepherd Center. “Throughout the years it’s been close to closing or has had some challenges, but we always seem to get through those challenges and persevere.”

“Just like many of our clients, the Shepherd Center is a survivor,” he added.

Rather than simply getting by, Herrera said the outreach organization is currently helping more people than ever.

“Around two years ago our registration was around 300-500 folks on average for the year,” he said. “Now we’re up to almost 1,200 that we serve every year.”

A big reason for that is the center’s relocation and facility expansions. A larger food pantry, along with two new trucks, has allowed a dedicated contingent of staff and volunteers to nearly triple the amount of food it distributes annually.

Based in Tarpon Springs, the Shepherd Center serves needy and homeless individuals and families in Dunedin, Oldsmar, and Tarpon Springs and Palm Harbor and other unincorporated areas of North Pinellas. A thrift store and food pantry operate out of group’s 780 S. Pinellas Ave. location and daily soup kitchens serve meals each day from various locations throughout the week.

In addition to providing food, the Shepherd Center works to help people get themselves back on track to self-sufficiency. Programs like the Esther Project for at-risk single mothers, the Adam II Project for men and Hero for Heroes for veterans all strive to achieve the organization’s ultimate goal of eliminating hunger in North Pinellas.

Portions of Saturday’s 40th anniversary gala will touch on each of the center’s functions, Herrera said.

Highlighting the event will be the participation of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Class of 2014 NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks.

“He’s going to be giving a speech and tell his story,” Herrera said of Brooks. “We’re happy to have him. He’s going to talk about the importance of giving back and being a leader in your community.”

A former trustee of Florida State University, Brooks helped found a charter high school in Hillsborough County and is president of the Tampa Bay Storm Arena Football League franchise.

The event is scheduled for 6–11 p.m. at Riverside Grille House, at 10 W. Dodecanese Blvd. The price to attend is $50 per person or $400 for a table of eight.

For more information, call (727) 940-5272.

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