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Southlake Style

Five Minutes with.....Shonda Schaefer

Mar 07, 2017 03:53PM ● By Ashley Pape

When you think of GRACE, Shonda Schaefer’s face likely comes to mind. The bubbly executive director with a megawatt smile seems to be everywhere in the community—from chamber events and board meetings to parties and black-tie galas. It’s all part of her job to educate others on the challenges and needs of our community’s most vulnerable population. When Schaefer took the helm at GRACE in 2006, she accepted a responsibility to serve those without a voice, those who have fallen on hard times and those who reach out for help.

WHAT I’VE ENJOYED THE MOST IN THE PAST 10 YEARS: The people, hands down. GRACE attracts some of the most amazing men and women who want to be part of something much bigger than themselves. The diverse group of social workers, medical professionals, pantry managers, resale staff, fundraisers, administrators and community leaders are absolutely the best in their fields. You won’t find a more cohesive and compassionate group of people anywhere.

I KNEW I WANTED TO HELP OTHERS WHEN: I was a child and heard a particularly disturbing story on the news about a family who had lost everything in a fire. I asked my mom, “Why doesn’t someone do something?” She responded, “Aren’t you someone?” That statement hit me hard then, but has been a bit of a mantra ever since. 

I HAVE ALWAYS ENJOYED: working with this population of clients. I find their determination and ingenuity inspiring. The working-class poor of our community find themselves in a unique subset—too wealthy to qualify for governmental assistance, yet too poor to get ahead. They can typically make ends meet but when faced with a crisis they are unable to pull out of it. However, donors and volunteers help bridge the gaps, keeping families from certain homelessness. Facilitating the giving and receiving is what GRACE is all about. It’s neighbor helping neighbor. Being part of the process has been a true honor and privilege.

A TYPICAL DAY FOR ME IS: filled with such variety. One day I’ll be working with the staff at Donation Station to collect items from cars and sort into bins, and later I may meet with a social worker who has a difficult case and needs to talk through the case plan. 

MY VISION FOR GRACE IS: to be a service organization that provides hope and guidance for families in crisis. We hold ourselves to five core values: compassion, excellence, respect, service and stewardship. In every decision, I test myself to those values. I want this organization to be the best in service, as well as the best place to work and volunteer. But above all else, I want to fulfill God’s will for this agency.

MOST PEOPLE DON’T REALIZE THAT GRACE: provides food, clothing, healthcare, housing, financial education, senior isolation support, counseling and financial assistance in addition to operating three resale stores and a full-service Donation Station. Our annual operating budget is over $4 million, and we employ over 60 people. 

THE MOST MEANINGFUL PART OF MY WORK IS: seeing the transformation of people here at GRACE. It is not uncommon to find clients who become donors or mentors, donors who provide direct assistance and volunteers who come to fulfill a school or court obligation and stay because they love what they are doing. This place has a way of moving people in ways we can’t even imagine. 

I’D DESCRIBE MY LEADERSHIP STYLE AS: being a servant leader. To me, that means it’s my responsibility to find my own personal and professional talents and then figure out how to help those around me find theirs. 

WHAT EXCITES ME THE MOST ABOUT MY JOB: is every day is filled with new opportunities, new challenges and new people. And yet, I see consistency and loyalty from this community. It’s pretty amazing to wake up every day and be excited to go to work. I truly have the best job in the world! 

I’D ASK THE COMMUNITY TO: include the GRACE mission and the families we serve in your personal prayers. 

MY FAVORITE GUILTY PLEASURE: Symphony chocolate bars with toffee and almonds. I usually eat half a candy bar every night. 

SOMETHING THAT MADE ME LAUGH RECENTLY: was seeing each of my grown kids and my macho husband dressed like elves in their Christmas jammies. I giggled until I had a stomachache!