SILVER SPRING – Shepherd’s Table, Montgomery County’s only daily provider of meals for the needy, has a new executive director.
Manuel Hidalgo will take the reins July 8 from outgoing Executive Director Jackie Coyle, who served there for 15 years.
“I am very excited,” said Hidalgo, who has lived in Silver Spring since 1999. He was born in Virginia and grew up in Miami, Florida. He is child of Cubans who left the island in the 1960s.
Hidalgo first came to this area as an undergraduate student at Georgetown University, where he thought he would become a lawyer.
But the homelessness and poverty he saw in the Washington, D.C. area affected him greatly.
“My consciousness was shocked. My world was turned around,” he said.
From then on, he has dedicated his working life to helping the less fortunate in a myriad of ways.
Hidalgo has worked with microlenders around the country in his own business. He also worked with Civic Nation, a national advocacy group, on voter participation, particularly among young people and the first generation of family members to attend college.
He worked for the Small Business Administration, running its Office of Economic Opportunity, and with the community-based Latino Economic Development Center in Washington, D.C., for eight years as its executive director.
Hidalgo also served as development director and a fundraiser at CASA of Maryland, an organization greatly involved in helping the immigrant population.
“I’ve been working on anti-poverty efforts primarily my whole career,” Hidalgo said.
Now, he is anxious to get involved with the homeless population on a professional level, he said.
While excited to start, Hidalgo did admit to being concerned about the difficulty of filling Coyle’s shoes. He described her as “revered” by both the people she worked with and the clients she served.
“That’s probably the most-challenging part of the job, walking in her shoes,” he said.
While he said it was too soon to say what he plans to do as head of Shepherd’s Table, his first goal is to “tweak what is good. There is so much we want to maintain, but there is also so much opportunity for growth,” he said.
The 49-year-old Hidalgo was chosen following a five-month search, in which 65 resumes were reviewed, said board Chair Susan Collet.
“We are terribly excited to have him on board, and we are also appreciative that he has deep understanding of our local community,” she said. “The board and the entire community look forward to working with Manny to keep strengthening our service to people experiencing homelessness and hunger in Silver Spring and surrounding areas.”
“He has a lot of good experience in two realms,” Collet noted. Those include working with “underserved populations in the social justice arena” and having a “great deal of executive skills,” Collet said.
Shepherd’s Table is a “mature charity,” which provides three meals a day on weekdays and two on weekends, she noted.
Part of Hidalgo’s job at first will be to conduct a strategic plan to see where the organization should go from here.
Soon after coming on board, Hidalgo intends to host several “Coffee at the Table with Manny” to introduce himself to the community and gain input from the general community.
Shepherd’s Table began in 1983 and is currently located in the county-owned Progress Place on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. Last year, it served 117,000 meals. Since its founding, it has provided more than 1.5 million meals.
Shepherd’s Table also staffs a resource center, enabling the homeless and needy to use a computer and have a mailing address.
Other services offered include a free eye clinic for those without insurance, a clothes closet of donated clothing, use of a telephone, information and referrals and bus tokens and toiletries.
Shepherd’s Table has 12 employees and more than 3,000 volunteers.