Twenty-five years ago Monday — on On Oct. 1, 1993 — Good Samaritan Ministries began operations inside the Sunset Mission building near Sunset Terrace Apartments.

Two classrooms were used for the food pantry—one for interviewing and the other for the pantry items. A World War II barracks housed the clothing ministry.

Thanks to the community’s support, the nonprofit Good Samaritan Ministries (also known as GSM) has evolved to run multiple programs that help Brown County’s needy, operating out of a large facility at 305 Clark St. in downtown Brownwood.

GSM is celebrating its 25th anniversary as it continues its mission to “proclaim the Gospel in both word and deed to all people in need in Brown County, Texas.”

GSM will host an open house at its facility from 10:30 a.m. to noon Monday.

“October 1 is actually the day in 1993 that Good Samaritan did its very first food distribution,” GSM Executive Director Leesa Stephens said. “It was at Sunset Baptist Mission, which was an outreach of First Baptist Church Brownwood. We thought that doing that on the actual day was significant.

“Some people have still never been down here. That’s a good time to come down. We’ll have some light refreshments. We’ll be happy to give you a tour of our facilities, talk to you about our hunger programs.”

The open house will also be an opportunity to “share with the community what’s going on down here, and also to preview some things coming up in the fall,” Stephens said. “This is the 10th anniversary of the Deer Project. This is a big anniversary year for Good Samaritan — 25 years for the ministry, 10th anniversary of the Deer Project, and early in 2019 we’ll be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Empty Bowls Project.”

Stephens is just the second executive director in GSM’s history. She was chosen for the job in August 2016 after the first director, Angelia Bostick, retired.

“I think anniversaries are important because they represent milestones,” Stephens said. “They represent achievement, they represent continuity. That’s why we celebrate — not just to pat ourselves on the back but to celebrate continuity and longevity.”

Stephens said the concept in 1993 of GSM as a social ministry, serving the people of Brown County, was unique. She said Bostick, her predecessor, “had the vision” and was directed by some other who saw an organization that would be supported by area churches, businesses and individuals.

The concept was “very unique, maybe even ahead of its time,” Stephens said. “Twenty-five years ago, issues like social justice and social service were not on a lot of people’s radar.

“Here was this idea that not only got started, but it grew up. A lot of time, with ministries, people have the heart to do the work but things just don’t pan out, and a few years later they’re gone. … there are some volunteers that started with us 25 years ago that are still here.”

Stephens said her responsibility as executive director is “to stay true and faithful to that original mission, which was to serve God and serve others, and to let it be for the people of Brown County, and to continue to be completely supported just by Brown County.

“I have been entrusted with a very incredible responsibility, and that is to continue everything that Good Samaritan has been in the past, while adapting to, ‘where do we go in the future? What does Good Samaritan look like five years from now, 10 years from now?’ 

“It is an awesome responsibility. It’s not one I take lightly. There are days that the weight of it is heavy on my shoulders and heavy on my heart.”  

GSM’s programs include:

• Resale Store— makes “gently used” items including clothing, shoes, purses, linens, toys, household items and small appliances available for sale at low prices. All proceeds  go back into the ministry.

• Food Pantry — distributes grocery staples for 800-900 families who may come once each month for as long as there is a need.

• Food for Thought — provides weekend nutrition for chronically hungry school children.

• Deer Project — partners hunters and processors in the fight against hunger as legally tagged and harvested deer are processed into lean protein for the Food Pantry.

• Pig Project — purchases show animals from Brown County Youth Fair to process into ground pork for distribution through the Food Pantry.

• Homebound Program—works with home health agencies and other helping groups to provide nutritious food for those at risk of malnutrition.

• Homeless Food Boxes — packs food boxes that contain easy-open nutritious food items for homeless and transitional clients that do not require refrigeration.

• Mobile Food Pantry—connects churches in remote parts of Brown County with their neighbors who cannot come to the GSM offices due to health, financial or transportation limitations.

For a history of GSM and additional information about its programs, visit http://goodsambwd.org/