It would be easy to overlook Theresa Nadeau.
She’s 81 years, old, slight of frame and speaks with a soft voice; a reminder of cancer which almost took her voice entirely 20 years ago.
While it might be easy to look past her in a physical sense, it is impossible to overlook the effect she’s had on the Chatham’s downtrodden.
For the past 14 years, Theresa, through her Shepherd’s Way Inn Restaurant, has provided home cooked meals and an extra helping of dignity for those who may be down on their luck.
The restaurant, open until 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, operates on a non-profit basis. Those who can afford to pay do so, those who can’t, “we put it in God’s hands,” she said.
If the income doesn’t match the expenses at the end of the month, however, the practical considerations of life means the money comes from Theresa’s bank account.
It’s been a difficult few months for the Inn, which has had to have its deep fryer and freezer replaced.
Theresa operated her restaurant on Fourth Street for the first seven years before moving to 260 King St. seven years ago.
She has relied on a solid corps of volunteers. No one at the Inn has received as much as a dollar for their efforts.
“I’ve used a lot of my savings,” she said. “I’m not sure how long we can continue.”
She said the idea of starting the Inn came to her in church one Sunday several years ago.
“The Lord told me ‘build a place and I will come,’” she said. “Jesus is the shepherd of us all so that’s the reason for the name.”
For Theresa, food and comfort go hand in hand. She said the Inn is a place for people to talk if they feel like it or just have a warm meal and the company of others.
“I love people and I don’t like to see them looked down on,” she said. “We open our hearts and we don’t judge them. That’s God’s responsibility, not ours.”
She said she firmly believes that people aren’t evil by nature.
“Nobody wakes up one day and decides to rob people or abuse drugs. There are things in their life they can’t handle. We help them realize there is hope through God.”
Theresa said she is open to anyone who wants to help, through whatever means they have. She can be reached at the Inn at 519-380-9985.