Meet Shonda Schaefer, executive director of the GRACE Board of Directors, who for the last eight years has been at the helm of this agency devoted to helping area residents in need. With more than 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Schaefer is passionate about caring for others.
We wanted to get to know more about Schaefer and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions about herself, GRACE and the community she serves.
DT: Can you start by telling us a little about GRACE Grapevine?
SS: After 27 years, the GRACE mission statement remains a humble vow to God and to our community to serve those less fortunate, and declares the goals we set — our prayers, hopes and encouraged outcomes — for our clients.
“As a steward of God’s blessings and resources in our community, GRACE demonstrates compassion for those less fortunate by providing assistance to individuals and families in crisis and guidance toward self-sufficiency.”
As stewards of His blessings and resources, GRACE promises to the members of the community who are the wellspring of this generosity to use every dollar donated, every pair of jeans given, every can of beans contributed in the most effective, efficient and timely manner to help people in crisis. While being compassionate in our assistance, we ask and heartily guide our clients to overcome their difficulties and become self-reliant, self-sufficient members of the community.
DT: What are your duties?
SS: As Executive Director I am responsible for strategic planning, fundraising, board development, staff supervision, volunteer management and financial planning. It is my charge to ensure every resource made available to GRACE (whether it be grants, donations, volunteer time, etc.) is efficiently used to advance our mission and change as many lives as possible.
DT: How did you become involved with GRACE Grapevine, and why are you passionate about it?
SS: I joined the GRACE leadership team in 2006 after serving in a volunteer role on the Board of Directors. Having worked in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years, I have always felt a passion to help individuals and families who are in need. I feel led to provide assistance to those around me and was drawn to GRACE because of its mission. It has truly been God’s blessing to be able to continue with this amazing organization and I look forward to many more years with this fantastic team.
DT: How do you continue to provide folks in Grapevine and surrounding areas with some of their basic needs? How does the organization stay afloat?
SS: GRACE is able to provide for those in need first and foremost by the grace of God. The generous donations of the community, contributions of donors and ample hours of hard work from volunteers move our mission forward.
We provide medical services, food, shelter, clothing, and financial assistance as well as seasonal programs like Feed our Kids and Christmas Cottage. It is our hope that through these programs GRACE will continue to bridge the gap created by unforeseen crises and guide our neighbors as they “get back on their feet” to become self-sufficient once again. The truth is many of us are one medical emergency, job loss, or car repair away from needing emergency services provided by GRACE. Therefore, it is our hope and vision that every individual and family in our community has access to medical care, food to eat, a roof over their heads, and the means to provide for themselves and their children.
DT: Why do you work in the nonprofit sector?
SS: I feel an imperative responsibility to pay forward all of my blessings and therefore chose to work in the nonprofit sector — it is my life’s passion. I find it incredibly rewarding to work alongside such caring and giving people to help our fellow neighbors with their needs and in turn be good stewards of the gifts we are blessed to receive.
DT: What are GRACE Grapevine's biggest needs in 2014? How can the folks of Grapevine help you all give back to the community?
SS: The GRACE Christmas Cottage opened its doors in one of the biggest ice storms North Texas has seen the likes of in 17 years. While the community banded together to ensure over 700 families had gifts to open Christmas morning, the timing of the storm has severely depleted our supply for Christmas Cottage 2014. We are starting off with an inventory of nearly half the toys and household appliances of previous years. Donations for Christmas Cottage are accepted year-round. To give specifically for this seasonal program, drop items by Donation Station (112 N. Scribner in Grapevine) and let the staff know to tag it for Christmas.
The Grapevine community can help GRACE give back in a variety of ways. The first, is to volunteer. Volunteers are a vital part of GRACE! Because of our large client base and limited budget, we rely heavily on our volunteers to fill in the gaps. There are a plethora of volunteer opportunities available for those interested in serving GRACE through time or talent.
GRACE benefits immensely from donations and monetary contributions of local businesses and citizens. From slightly used furniture that goes directly to our Transitional Housing clients to canned food that stocks our Food Pantry shelves, every offering counts.While GRACE has seen a more than 40 percent increase in requests for assistance, we've also seen an almost equal decrease of individual contributions. If you can, please help.
Last, but certainly not least, shop at our resale stores! Resale proceeds fund a large portion of the GRACE annual budget to support the communities of Northeast Tarrant County.
DT: What has been your favorite moment at a GRACE Grapevine event so far?
SS: A couple of years ago there was a beautiful young lady by the name of Laura who came to GRACE seeking a new start in life. When Laura came to GRACE, she spoke so softly you could barely hear her and she had trouble looking you in the eye; she was a victim of domestic violence and had lived in fear for she and her daughter’s safety. Laura entered our Transitional Housing program and flourished. She began to gain confidence in herself; she worked diligently to complete her Master’s degree and created a safe and stable home for her young daughter.
Laura attended one of our GRACE Gala’s after beginning her new path. I will never forget the moment when she walked on stage with her head held high and graciously accepted the audience’s applause for all of her courageous achievements. It was a humbling. In that moment I felt so proud for Laura and all she had done for herself and her daughter. It is a moment I will never forget, and I am grateful to have been able to be a part of it and a part of Laura’s life.