Leading a community effort

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Shan Kingston is the new executive director for Shepherd’s Hand. She began in the position last month. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

Shan Kingston says a strong volunteer base drew her to taking the job as the new executive director of the nonprofit Shepherd’s Hand.

“Shepherd’s Hand wouldn’t exist without volunteers,” Kingston said. “There are over 200 volunteers who have served thousands of patients and saved millions of dollars.”

The mission of Shepherd’s Hand Free Clinic is to provide care to those in the Flathead Valley who are underserved and are falling between the cracks. It does so through a handful of programs, namely a medical clinic, dental clinic, wellness program and free community meal.

Kingston joined the nonprofit last month. She replaces Meg Erickson who retired this spring from the role, and who along with her husband, Jay, established Shepherd’s Hand more than 20 years ago.

Kingston most recently served as executive director for a nonprofit literacy program in Jackson, Wyoming, serving children, adults and family. She guided that organization as it expanded to include an intervention program and a transition program for students ready to leave, and providing additional services for the families whose children participated.

She said the literacy program grew over time to better serve the community, and that’s the same quality she saw in Shepherd’s Hand that she enjoys.

“It came from a singular need and it was able to continue to grow and tap into the community for volunteers to fill that need,” she said. “As a nonprofit we can react more quickly than the government. We can react faster to the needs.”

That experience led her to realize the impact volunteers could have in serving their community.

Kingston moved to Whitefish earlier this summer with her husband, David, who works for Averill Hospitality. They also have three grown children. She previously worked in the administration department of a school district and managed a medical practice.

Jay Erickson, who still serves on the Shepherd’s Hand board, said Kingston’s experience, expertise and passion for serving the community will allow her to excel in leading the clinic’s mission of service to friends and neighbors.

“Shepherd’s Hand was founded on the core belief of honoring the value and affirming the dignity of every individual,” Erickson said in a statement. “We focus on overall health and wellbeing through our weekly community meal, wellness programs, behavioral health services, and medical and dental services. We are thrilled to have Shan joining the Shepherd’s Hand family and helping us to continue our story of faith, volunteerism, compassion and community.”

As Kingston looks to introduce herself to the community she continues to reach out to businesses and other nonprofits, but she says she already enjoys Whitefish.

“The entire community respects the work of nonprofits,” she said.

In her first month, Kingston said she has already observed the work done by Shepherd’s Hand for those who come to the clinic for a variety of reasons.

“We look at the individual nature of every person that comes to Shepherd’s Hand,” she said. “Each has a unique set of circumstances for why they need us and we look at the way we can deliver that holistic support. We try to provide physical, emotion and spiritual support.”

“For those that come in we can’t help we try to connect them with the resources in the community,” she added.

Shepherd’s Hand in 2010 formally incorporated as a stand-alone non-profit organization and elected its first board of directors. Kathy Neff serves as the free medical director, Jennifer Hyatt is director of operations and Jessica Tubbs is the director of volunteers.

Shepherd’s Hand is focused on continuing to understand the scope of community needs and identifying potential new opportunities to meet those needs, according to Kingston.

“We’re looking to the next phase,” she said. “We want to look for ways we can expand our programs. We also want to look to collaborate with other nonprofits and ensure that we aren’t duplicating services.”

For more information on Shepherd’s Hand, call 406-260-3502 or visit http://shepherdshand.com.

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