The Shepherd Center Needs You

Do you know The Shepherd’s Center of Chesterfield? Maybe not, but you should.

The small non-profit in Chesterfield, originally started in Chester, is focused on the betterment of seniors’ lives. Executive Director Susan McCammon shared, “We’re an organization with the goal of keeping seniors active and healthy for as long as possible.”

The Shepherd’s Center of Chesterfield started back in 2001. The mission of the small grassroots group is “Enriching the lives of adults 50 and over by offering opportunities for interfaith community service, lifelong learning, and assistance in maintaining an independent lifestyle.”

The premise of the organization is an interfaith organization of senior adults who donate their time, talents, professional expertise, automobiles, gas, and other resources to help other senior adults remain independent in their own homes. The Shepherd’s Center has the goal of enriching the lives of adults 50 and better by offering volunteer opportunities for community service and lifelong learning and to help them remain active and independent. Participants realize they are needed and valued and that they can continue to live lives that truly matter throughout their later years.

McCammon started with the organization back in 2007 as the volunteer coordinator and worked her way to Executive Director.  “I liked the mission of Shepherd’s and got so taken away with the people, and they are like family to me now,” she said.

The center is a bare-bones non-profit working with a very small budget and a slew of volunteers that make things happen. They currently have about 200 volunteers. There are no full-time positions, costs are kept down with only two part-time jobs.  The core of the organization is threefold. McCammon said, “There are three main areas –

Transportation, Handy Hands, and Adventures in Learning (AIL).

“We have about 59 volunteer drivers that drive 323 seniors to appointments and other vital services,” said McCammon. “These volunteers use their vehicles, gas and time to help other seniors.”  The dedicated drivers shuttle others to medical appointments, the pharmacy or the grocery store. It is just one more way that seniors are able to stay vital and living independently for longer in their own homes.

John Chamberlain, board chairman in his third term with the center, is also a volunteer driver. Chamberlain got his start with the center when he read an article in a local paper and became a driver. He is now serving his third term as president of the board for the center. “But I’m still a volunteer driver,” he shared with pride.

The center can’t accommodate wheelchairs, but Chamberlain said that the center “makes over 500 trips annually.” After seniors register with the center, they can arrange rides four days in advance of their need. “We drive to local clinics, MCV, the dental school, and doctors office – we’ll go just about anywhere,” Chamberlain shared.

Seniors can register for all the services available by calling volunteers at the center and registering. Transportation is about 40 percent of the services the center provides.

Handy Hands
Another area of the Shepherd’s Center is Handy Hands. A pool of HandyHands volunteers donate their time to provide this service which averages almost three calls a week.

Handy Hands provides minor home repair services to seniors living in their own homes. “We have 12 people in the Handy Hands program,” said McCammon. “They have provided 54 services in the last year from hanging drapes and fixing leaky faucets to installing screen doors and doorknobs.”

The idea is to help seniors with small repairs so they can stay viable in their own homes. Handy Hands is about 10 percent of the services the center provides. “Our goal is to keep seniors active and healthy for as long possible,” McCammon said.
Adventures in Learning
Another venture that the center is involved in is the Adventures in Learning.

AIL provides a variety of classes during the fall, winter and spring terms. Senior volunteers, who are very knowledgeable in their subject matter, teach the classes. Topics include courses in hobbies, exercise, history, current events, self-defense, plus many others. Some classes meet for only one semester, but many last through all three semesters in the year.

“The beauty of the Adventures in Learning is the fellowship,” McCammon said. “The best part of fellowship is that they are like a big family – such a blessing.” McCammon said that you might have a “curiosity about watercolors and get fellowship in the bargain.”

Typical classes include Knitting, Guitar, Watercolors, Drawing, and Quilting; Senior Strength Training, and Line Dancing; Civil War History, The Thirty Years War, and other topics. Most classes are taught at Chester Baptist Church, Classes meet on Wednesdays beginning at 9 a.m. and there is a nominal fee.  AIL is about 50 percent of the services the center provides.

Also, they serve a lunch after classes and many seniors prepare the meals and have become involved in volunteering. “We served 1,600 lunches last year,” Chamberlain shared.

So, many of them are recipients of education and volunteer themselves in other areas. They’ve recently had several of their volunteers retire from their positions they began at the start of the program in 2001.

McCammon recounts a story of one of their top volunteers who came to take a class in line dancing. His wife had transferred to Ft. Lee and he came to take a class. Now he is a major volunteer and helps in many areas of the center. “It’s a way to keep seniors active and to get them into the center and then they start volunteering and working for others,” McCammon shared.

The Shepherd’s Center works with limited resources and is an excellent example of what can be done with little resources. Fundraising is done through work with community partners, some healthcare partners, church community and a few other generous providers. Lucy Corr Village provides them offices and they do fundraisers. They have two major fundraisers per year ~ their tea and Senior Idol contest, which usually brings in about 400 talented seniors.

“We narrow the contest to 12 contestants and they compete at a program where we sell tickets to raise funds,” Chamberlain said. He said his role at the center is to “keep the center going and keep financial sustainability ~ bring in enough funds.”

There are so many kinds of volunteer opportunities available and everyone of every age can be involved. Chamberlain says a great reward is driving around someone who might not see anyone but him in a week. “It’s a good feeling when you drop them off, as drivers we get something out of it too,” he said.

McCammon said there are opportunities for everyone from every walk of life. “You name it, we have an opportunity for others to volunteer,” McCammon said. “Volunteers are always needed, all the time ongoing.”

To contact The Shepherd‘s Center, call (804) 706-6689. McCammon shared, “We’re always looking for volunteers, anybody can help,” she commented. Because of volunteers The Shepherd’s Center is able to offer seniors an added quality of life.

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