Whether you are in search of a First Communion gift, a handcrafted basket to organize your space, help with utility bills or simply a friend to talk to, the Shepherd’s Door offers an impressive mix of merchandise and services. “We are referred to as a book store but we don’t sell books,” volunteer and board member Peggy Hartman, of Kilbuck, explained. While they do sell bibles and devotional books, the store does not offer books by Christian authors, as you may expect. Instead, their inventory is part religious merchandise and part Fair Trade goods imported from around the world. As a non-profit store run by
volunteers, every sale benefits local and global communities.
Established in 1977 by local teacher, Ann Farrell, the Shepherd’s Door was intended to provide Catholic merchandise for purchase and offer an available ear for those in need of comfort. Over time, the religious product offerings expanded
to represent all Christian denominations. Its first location was in the plaza at the southern edge of Bellevue where R&B’s Pizza and Good L’oven Cookie Shop currently are located.
Nearly 15 years ago, the store moved to the heart of Bellevue, at 573 Lincoln Ave. Around that same time, they added Fair Trade merchandise to its inventory.
By adding Fair Trade goods, the Shepherd’s Door helps artists in developing
countries. In turn, the local community benefits from the profits. Fair Trade offers opportunity to struggling artisans and farmers, empowering them as they learn a skill, produce unique, handcrafted items and learn to operate a business. Peggy said she buys items from more than a dozen suppliers who work with artists around the globe. “But there are hundreds more out there,” she said. The artists are paid a fair wage for their wares based on their country’s economy. The mission has helped provide a livelihood for families and aim to keep them clear of sex trafficking, drug abuse and poverty.
Because a Fair Trade purchase supports dual causes, the Shepherd’s Door is a shop where you can completely rationalize your spending. Unusual crafts, like ivory carvings made from the Ecuadorian Palm Tree’s Tagua nut, or earrings adorned with a seed of a Jaboncillo tree in Costa Rico, or handknotted macrame purses from India make special gifts. “Believe it or not, macrame is back,” Peggy laughed. Specialty chocolate from cocoa farmers in Ghana is a fine treat for yourself.
Proceeds of the store’s sales are put toward its operating costs and the community. During a typical school year, the Shepherd’s Door runs a Backpack Buddies program in the Northgate schools. They provide supplemental weekend food for students in need. Distribution, however, has been more complicated during the pandemic and its
remote learning. In the past, they have also provided an after school program, grab and go lunches, summer children’s theatre and other initiatives. Bellevue Christian Church and other neighboring churches often earmark a portion of their fundraising efforts to the Shepherd’s Door’s projects.
More than a dozen volunteers keep the store operating smoothly. “One hundred percent of it is run by volunteers,” Peggy said. Some work behind the scenes making repairs, creating window displays and ordering product. Others man the store. Dolly Hunkele and son Kevin have volunteered for more than two decades. Her husband, Tom, became a staple after retiring. “This is like our second home here, “Tom said. Asked if they could use more volunteers, Peggy responded, “Always.”
A corner of the shop is a dedicated resource center, offering assistance and hope to those in need. Brochures line the wall providing contact information for SNAP food benefits, medical assistance, resume updates, grief counseling and other needs. A computer and printer are available to use as well. “We help people connect with the right organizations to help them,” Peggy said. And sometimes, people stop in just for comfort and a prayer. “It’s a unique place. We look like a store but we’re like a ministry. We try to be both.”
The Shepherd’s Door is open Monday through Friday 10:00am to 5:00pm, Saturdays 10:00am to 3:00pm and closed on Sundays. Phone is 412-761-4310. Interested volunteers can stop in any time.