Editor's note: This is part of a summer series called "Meet your neighbor." If you would like to nominate someone to be featured in this series, email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sandy Steele has touched a lot of lives. And she’s not done. She continues to do so today as the volunteer director of the Basic Needs Ministry at the Graham Street Church of Christ.
She’s been in helping professions her entire life. After attending Tarleton State University and becoming a licensed dietician, Steele worked as the food service director for Machias State School for 30 years. Then she retired and went right back to work.
For six years she worked in Stephenville for Early Childhood Intervention of Tarrant County with a team of specialists, including nurses, speech therapists and more, evaluating children with special needs and getting them needed help.
Then, two years ago, she took on the directorship of the Basic Needs Ministry which provides families and individuals in need with necessities such as clothing, shelter and jobs.
“We’re trying to help people get on their feet,” Steel said. “We show them we care and meet their basic needs before anything else.”
Central to the group’s work is their clothing room and food pantry. They counsel those who need help and if there are other things they need, they make referrals. Each month the ministry, which is open on Thursdays, serves about 160 to 175 families.
Steel explains that the program is chiefly financed through church donations, but sometimes there are special situations and “people are so generous to help us with that.”
“We have about 25 volunteers that work in the program, organizing things, sorting clothes and taking care of the groceries we get from the Tarrant County food bank.," she said. "Their 18-wheeler pulls into the parking lot every two weeks. And if they’re available, the firefighters and EMS personnel come and help unload the truck. It’s been wonderful to have their assistance.”
A recent set of circumstances involved a young couple who moved to Stephenville with the promise of a job and ended up homeless.
“They got here and the job wasn’t what was promised. And the housing fell through. The woman left them a note saying they couldn’t stay in the house. So then they were sleeping in their car, with a small child, sometimes in the Wal-Mart parking lot and sometimes in the park," she said. "One of our church members met them and offered help. And now they’re very happy and moving forward.”
Another example, Steele says, is getting ready for prom. “We had some dresses donated and one mom came in and she was so excited because there was a dress there the exact color her daughter wanted and the size she needed. She probably wouldn’t have been able to go to prom if she hadn’t found that dress.”
Linda Stewart, the office manager at the church and the person who nominated Steele for this article, says Sandy Steele touches hundreds of lives each year.
“Until I started work here about a year ago, I had no idea of the tremendous need in the surrounding community. Whatever money she has to operate the program, she’s really able to amplify," Stewart said. And she’s so compassionate. People feel they can come to her.”
Steele graduated from Stephenville High School in 1968 and from Tarleton in 1972. She’s married to Al Steele, a retired shop teacher, and they have two married daughters and five grandchildren.