GRACE’s Annual Staff Retreat is a treasured day of fellowship, personal growth and reflection that revives our focus on our particular role in the GRACE mission. This year we reflected on the agency’s past, present and future.

What made this retreat particularly moving was the theme of being “rooted in GRACE”. Like a tree must be planted in rich soil to grow, we revisited our roots and heard about the seeds that began this agency from the founder and former Executive Director Tricia Wood.

Tricia embodies the kind of spirit a person of specific calling has, but as she explained, she didn’t always feel like that. Her transparency about GRACE’s humble beginnings, and her unlikely role to GRACE from a secretary position at Living Word Church is a testament to God’s ability to shape our talents into the pillars of His work.

A single mother who slept in her station wagon with her children is forever engraved in Tricia’s mind as one of many parents who did not know from where their next meal would come, or where their children would sleep that night.

After getting call after call from local families in crisis, a ministerial alliance decided one haven with a wide scope of services was the best way to address the growing needs of the community.

And after much prayer and labor, GRACE was founded three decades ago in 1987.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” –Isaiah 43:19

Tricia enlightened the staff about different facility locations and shared how God was faithful even in the darkest of seasons. We were tremendously blessed to hear Tricia’s heart on the GRACE mission and reminded of the legacy so many in the community carry to ensure no family stays hungry or poverty-stricken in our cities.

Speaking of women of legacy, the staff was blessed to have City Councilwoman and GRACE Board member Duff O’Dell as our guest and invocation speaker. Duff has been an integral part of GRACE’s growth, and we were greatly encouraged by her.

Next we looked to our leaders, Executive Director Shonda Schaefer and Director of Development Mark Woolverton to hear about GRACE’s present and new plans for the future.

The staff took the opportunity to ask questions and gain a richer perspective on each aspect of operations at different sites.

The remaining part of the day was focused on the individual, and what unique talents each person lent to their department.  Staffers proudly wore buttons with their personality type, and enjoyed creative ways to recognize their strengths and encourage others in the process.

The GRACE staff took part in a historical scavenger hunt, which completed a unique timeline chronicling GRACE milestones and noteworthy transitions throughout the years.

The day ended by planting an apple tree near the GRACE Community Garden and Food Pantry, as a symbol of bearing good fruit and providing for families in need.

We know your gifts to GRACE are more than “things”, and our work at this agency is more than a “job.” May God continue to guide this agency through His people as we look to take care of those who are struggling.


“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” -John 15