HAYWARD – An East Bay mother and son are teachers by day, but outside the classroom, they team up to serve those in need in downtown Hayward.
Janay Shepherd got inspired to serve the unsheltered while she was volunteering for Love Never Fails, a nonprofit that prevents and fights human trafficking.
As the group walked East Bay streets looking for survivors to help, she also met the gaze of homeless folks.
"I've just seen the desperation in their eyes. When you're hungry, you have a look on your face of loneliness and sadness," she told KPIX 5.
Janay explained how she stepped out in faith.
"When I went out with Love Never Fails at night, we'd be out there 'til 2 or 3 in the morning, and we took a bus. One time I was on the bus and I heard clear as day, 'Feed my sheep. Janay, feed my sheep.' That was 'Okay, Lord, feed my sheep'," she said.
So Janay started the program, Feed My Sheep, in 2014, along with her son, Elijah Shepherd.
Together, they and about a dozen volunteers cook and serve free home cooked meals, every Tuesday evening from 5pm to 6:30pm at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hayward.
"It's really, truly been life-changing, it has been. to see the huge impact my mother and I have had, just by loving on people," Elijah Shepherd said.
About 130 guests a week arrive for the hot meals, free groceries, donated clothing, and more.
Melissa Sevier is now clean; she's been coming to Feed My Sheep for years while she worked on her recovery.
Sevier is grateful for the Shepherds' generosity of spirit.
"With homelessness and addiction, they were my come-to place and they were always here," Sevier told KPIX 5. "They mean a lot to me. I'm in love with their loving kindness. They've been a blessing to me."
To Elijah and Janay Shepherd, the people they serve are like family.
Some guests are dealing with mental illness. Many feel forgotten.
But all are welcome here.
Feed My Sheep also hosts holiday meals, birthday parties for unhoused children who've never had one.
The Shepherds have even organized a wedding for senior citizens who were living in their car.
"Everyone has a name, everyone has a story. Sometimes you need to be able to be there and listen," Elijah said.
"We serve everybody with the kindness of love," echoed his mother. "We have laughter and silliness and we're just ourselves. It's always been this way."
The warm relationships fostered by mother and son inspire volunteers like Christine Dowell.
"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be coming back. They're awesome, seriously, full of love and energy," Dowell said.
For Feed My Sheep's weekly ministry to the unhoused, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Elijah Shepherd and Janay Shepherd.
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