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UHS students donate beef to Shepherd’s Inn

A group of local students recently turned their hard work and dedication into an incredible gift for a local non-profit organization.

The agriculture program at Unaka High School donated around 400 pounds of beef products and several gift bags of toys and other items for children to The Shepherd’s Inn, which is a domestic violence and temporary homeless shelter for women and children in Carter County.

The project began with the school’s Supervised Agricultural Experience program, the Drop Farm Collaborative.

“It requires them to put in so many hours working on the farm,” said UHS agriculture teacher John Hardin. “They learn about tractor maintenance and tractor safety, they put up fence, they raise livestock and farm produce.”

Funding to help purchase the livestock and plants for the garden came through a grant, and Hardin said one of the requirements of the grant, as well as the mission of the Drop Collaborative, is that anything raised on the farm for food will be donated back to the community.

“This is actually a beef they raised,” Hardin said on Tuesday as students in the Meat Science class processed the beef.

Students working on the farm bottle fed the Holstein calf and raised it until it was ready for slaughter and processing.

The Holstein was then brought to the high school where the Meat Science class slaughtered it following U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations. The students then processed the beef into the same types of commercial cuts that shoppers can find at their local grocery store. Hardin said the students turned the beef into roasts, hamburger, ribs, stew meat, and steaks. Those products were then vacuum sealed and frozen.

On Wednesday, Hardin and his students presented the beef to Paul Gabinet, Director of the Shepherd’s Inn. The students also donated several gift bags with toys and items for children to the Shelter to be given to the children who are brought there.

“We picked The Shepherd’s Inn because we wanted it to stay local and help the local community,” Hardin said.

While at the school to pick up the donation, Gabinet spoke to students in the agriculture program about the Shelter’s mission and operations.

The Shepherd’s Inn was founded in Carter County 21 years ago and is the community’s only domestic violence and temporary homeless shelter for women and children. Since opening its doors, Gabinet said the shelter has served thousands of residents in their time of need.

“They come in most of the time with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” Gabinet told the students.

In 2017, the shelter saw 1,776 occupancy days, which Gabinet said is calculated by the number of people at the facility and the number of days they are there. For example, if a woman comes to the shelter with two children and they are there for five days, that adds up to 15 occupancy days.

The average stay at the shelter is 15 days long, Gabinet said, and it is a rare occurrence that there is a day where no one is staying at the facility.

Gabinet thanked the students for their donation and their hard work.

“I can’t tell you enough how much we appreciate it,” Gabinet said.