A pioneer in the field, the nationwide network of Shepherd’s Centers offer endless possibilities to live life with meaning and purpose through educational programs, volunteer caregiving services, and social programs that build community connections for all. Millions of lives have changed for the better as older adults are aging with dignity in the community.
Our history and experience
As a minister, Elbert Cole recognized that as individuals were retiring from careers and moving into the next stage of life, they maintained an intense desire to continue growing and contributing to society. Cole also held strong beliefs about personal wellness (physically, mentally and spiritually), lifelong learning, and interfaith and interracial cooperation. These values, shared by so many, just needed to be tapped.
So in 1971, a community planning team — using concepts of empowerment, ownership, and participatory decision-making — designed an organization that provided opportunities to meet a range of needs of retired adults. A year later, the first Shepherd’s Center opened in Kansas City as a new model for aging that empowered older adults to use their wisdom, skills, and talents to create opportunities for themselves and others. Success was immediate and Shepherd’s Centers rapidly expanded to other neighborhoods and communities across the U.S.
For nearly five decades now, Shepherd’s Centers of America has been a beacon for shaping the national conversation on positive aging in America. Today our programs promote solutions for a more productive, meaningful, and independent way of living in later life. Building on years of experience, our empowering programs focus on lifelong learning, health and wellness, and volunteering in community in order to foster independence (and interdependence), grow meaningful friendships, and minimize social isolation.
From a grassroots initiative to a national movement, Shepherd’s Centers of America is a network of interfaith, community-based organizations designed by, with, and for older adults. Each local affiliate Shepherd’s Center is a separate nonprofit led by an independent board of directors. As one of the first organizations to celebrate the power of aging, Shepherd’s Centers of America is dedicated to establishing new centers, supporting existing ones, and contributing to the national aging network.
Our mission is focused on creating meaningful opportunities for service, lifelong learning, individual well-being and independent living designed by, with and for older adults through an interfaith network of community-based organizations.
Our vision is to transform the concept of aging into an empowering experience for living a life of meaning…for today’s and future generations.
Our values are rooted in the philosophy of what all religions and people have a common—a responsibility to do good and help others. We seek to provide all individuals with meaningful experiences for personal growth and self-expression; for healthy, active lifestyles; for social and recreational opportunities to build friendships. By helping our neighbors, we help our communities.
At the national office, we devote our energy to providing an array of programs and services to support our local affiliates. These include: providing education, training, and technical assistance, coaching community leaders in establishing new centers, raising awareness of the difference the network makes in the lives of older adults and society, and numerous other activities to advance our mission.
Meet our Board of Directors
Janet Carlson Baker
Shepherd’s Center of Kansas City Central
Kansas City, MO
“My dad, Dale Carlson, served on the SCA board for a number of years and we lost him in 2007 doing what he loved, actually working with Teresa Davis in the SCA office. The love and kindness Teresa showed me at that time endeared Shepherd’s Center to me on a very personal level. 12 years later, living in Portland, Oregon, praying hard for a way home to KC and our children and granddaughter here, I learned about the KC Shepherd’s Center Executive Director opportunity. Serving in this role gives me pointed insight as to my dad’s passion for SC and Dr. Cole’s vision of an organization that is ‘of seniors, by seniors and for seniors’. I remember as a little girl trying to “step into” my dad’s giant footsteps as I followed him; this is no different, but it will be a great personal joy to try.”
Linda Breytspraak, PhD
Professor Emerita of Sociology and former director of the Center on Aging Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City
Prairie Village, KS
“I learned about the Shepherd’s Center concept in its early days in the 1970’s as a young university professor in Kansas City. Using it to show how older adults create meaning in their later years became an integral part of my teaching of both gerontology and medical students, and some of these students had excellent learning experiences at the Shepherd’s Center Central site.”
Alan Forker, MD
Retired cardiologist, University of Missouri-Kansas City and Saint Luke’s Hospital, MO
“I am honored to be a member of the SCA Board of Trustees. I am 81-years-old and identify completely with the goals of SCA. We/I will work to Disrupt Aging, and change our lifestyle to Aging Gracefully.”
Ann W. McClung
Founder of Shepherd’s Center of Greenbrier Valley, WV; retired Physical Therapist with a geriatric certification
“From my first encounter of Shepherd’s Center in 1998 till today, involvement in the ministry of Shepherd’s Center has given meaning and purpose to my life and a model for positive aging. Lifelong learning, service to others, spiritual growth, and enriching friendships are daily blessings to me. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunities that Shepherd’s Center provides in your community. Shepherd’s Center of America invites you to be involved at the national level to help encourage growth of new Centers. May we together spread Shepherd’s Center throughout the United States.”
Retired engineer, Board Member with Shepherd’s Center of Topeka
Silver Lake, KS
“Picasso’s quote, ‘Action is the foundational key to all success,’ resonates when I think of Shepherd’s Centers.”
Oren Renick, JD, Th.M.
Professor, School of Health Administration, Texas State University
San Marco, TX
“Paraphrasing Rabindranath Tagore, ‘I dreamed that life was all joy. I awoke and saw that life was but service. I served and learned that service is joy.’”
Kathy Bock Scaletty, RN, Vice Chair
Retired Assistant Professor, Research College of Nursing, MO
Lee’s Summit, MO
“Dr. Kermit Phelps, a psychologist who ran the Life Enrichment Program at Shepherd’s Center in the 1980’s said, ‘If you mainly ‘REST’ in your later years, that ‘E’ will soon become a ‘U’! So get up and move, plug into life, follow your passion, and help others along the way!’”
Chuck Smithers, Treasurer
Certified Public Accountant and Chartered Global Management Accountant
Orange Park, FL
Finding a place for us older folks to fit in and continue to experience a fulfilling life is not always easy. SCA through the network of Shepherd Centers around the country provide high quality programs targeted to our interests and age group. I can’t think of anything more important to this demographic.”
Betsy Solomon, Chair
Executive Director of Shepherd’s Center of Webster-Kirkwood
“My first experience with the Shepherd’s Center was as an instructor for the Adventures in Learning program. I knew from the very first day that the Shepherd’s Center was different from other organizations because of the true sense of community among the people who participate. Whether it be educational programs, volunteer opportunities, community outreach, rides to the doctor or helping hands – the Shepherd’s Center brings people together and everyone belongs.”
Rachel A. Stiff, MA
“I believe we should cherish every stage of life and look for the beauty in each one. Seniors’ memories are a personal snapshots in history. SCA is a gathering of a beautiful collage, from which we can all benefit.”
Meet our staff
Sarah Cheney, Executive DirectorSarah has served with Shepherd’s Centers of America since 2005, first as a board member, including serving as chair from 2009-2011, and now as executive director. Her experience includes hands-on direct service and corporate leadership with both for-profit and nonprofit health and human service agencies. She has been privileged to work with hundreds of older adults, where her learning has been greatly enriched through their life experiences.
Teresa Davis, Director of Programs
Teresa has been a member of the Shepherd’s Center of America team since 2005 and currently provides network outreach for educational and support programs. She is passionate about empowering older adult’s involvement in enriching environments that promote educational support, community connections, and a sense of well-being. Teresa is grateful that her daily work with the SCA network supports her personal mission to serve others with compassion, grace, and dignity.
Meet our partners
Successful partnerships with businesses, foundations, and organizations are essential to the mission of Shepherd’s Centers of America. Partners and sponsors can support us through:
⦁ Philanthropic gifts that drive growth
⦁ Employee-centric volunteer or donor partnerships
⦁ High-impact marketing and awareness relationships
Our partners enable our network to do what we do best: positively impact the lives of older adults by connecting them to social, educational, and support services that build community for all.
Creative Center of America
True Link Financial