A lot of people take credit for Good Shepherd. Rightfully so. It has taken, and continues to take, a community to keep all the pieces moving. But with every great organization, there’s a founder.
Someone who had an idea and planted the seed. The rest of us come along to water that seed and watch it grow. It is not unnoticed that in Good Shepherd’s 35th year of serving first the hungry and now the hungry and homeless, that we would lose our beloved Ed Toone. A founder.
I met Ed when I joined the staff of Good Shepherd six years ago. I only learned he was “a founder” when we planned the 30th Anniversary Gala and Ed was honored. In my career, I have worked with founders who suffered a syndrome. They couldn’t handle the change or the growth that came with their “baby.” Not Ed. He embraced it. With every move to a bigger building, the addition of programs, a clinic, affordable housing, Ed stayed fast. He reveled in the growth like the rest of us. He was proud and you knew it.
Ed’s wife, Bates, and their children, also embraced Good Shepherd. And now we mourn as a family.
It was 35 years ago, when Wilmington was a very different place, that Ed and Bates Toone had a conversation about a soup kitchen. Bates was a member of the committee on hunger with the Diocese of East Carolina back in 1983. The Diocese provided $400 to start the soup kitchen and the money was used to purchase paper products to serve the soup, as well as sandwiches and milk that was provided to hungry neighbors in the community.
A gentleman walked in the day the soup kitchen opened and presented an additional check for $300. With $700 in hand, “we were off and running,” Ed proudly boasted. By the end of the first year, they had $2,000 in the bank.
On opening day, there was press and 7 hungry neighbors. That number grew to 50 then 100.
Ed could not have known then, but he continued on the journey that today has led Good Shepherd Center to a budget of more than $1.8 million. Last year alone, Good Shepherd served 89,895 meals to thousands including men, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and Veterans. Ed Toone remained an integral part of Good Shepherd right up until his death, even reporting for work when fighting the cancer that was ravaging his body. He worked in the Second Helpings program, managing the food distribution to Good Shepherd and 16 other community agencies, as well as greeting guests entering each day for lunch. He worked at the front desk and was a pillar to his colleagues as well as our homeless and hungry neighbors.
Ed will be deeply missed but his legacy lives on. He will always be a founder.
Jane Birnbach is the Senior Development Director at Good Shepherd Center.