Every Thursday morning, Dorothy Evans leaves her home in Springfield, VA, hops aboard the bus around 7:15 a.m., then transfers to a second bus which takes her to the Vienna Metro station, just so that she can VOLUNTEER at the Shepherd’s Center of Oakton/Vienna. Oh, and she’s 85 years old. AND, she’s been following this routine for 15 years. Fortunately SCOV Director Michelle Scott picks Dorothy up at the Metro station so she doesn’t have to trek up the hill to the Vienna Baptist Church, home of SCOV, although she used to walk occasionally in years past.
Dorothy is just one of the hundreds of individuals who call upon the resources of the Shepherd’s Center to enjoy more fulfilling lives. The Shepherd’s Center is designed as a support center to help seniors remain in their own homes and “to live a life that matters.”
Services include medical transportation to drive folks to doctor and therapy appointments, and companion transportation to accompany seniors to the grocery store, the bank, and the like. The volunteers will pick the individual up, wait through the errand or appointment, and drive them home again. Sometimes a senior simply needs a friendly caller/visitor so volunteers will call or visit homebound seniors for reassurance or a friendly talk. Handy helpers volunteer to make minor home repairs; Health advocates provide health counseling, blood pressure screenings, referrals and more. All of these services are provided at no cost to adults of 50+ years and there are no income level restrictions.
SCOV is one of four local Northern Virginia Shepherd’s Centers. Those four provided 3,222 rides in 2013. Julius Hankin, along with his wife, Mary Ann, have been board members since the center began. He comments, “All our drivers are fully insured, undergo state police background checks, and drive seniors both ways for their appointments or errands without charge.” Julius shared a favorite story that while on a delivery, an SCOV driver noticed a faulty rain spout at the senior’s home, returned the next day to repair it, and found the homeowner in his wheelchair in a coma. The volunteer was instrumental in saving the man’s life, all because of his caring.
There are also numerous educational and entertainment programs that the center’s seniors enjoy. One of the most popular is Adventures in Learning, which include classes, workshops and discussion groups covering a wide range of topics from world affairs to arts and crafts. These are offered three times a year over a number of weeks and are taught by volunteer members.
Special events include Lunch n’ Life, luncheons with special guests or musical entertainment. Past guests have included such local dignitaries as Doug Hill and Bob Levey. Last month the seniors were entertained by Harmony Heritage Singers, a barbershop chorus of retired gentlemen. Lunch n’ Life is fortunate to have strong partnerships supporting the events. Marshall High School’s Davis Center, a culinary school for mentally-challenged students learning work skills, prepares the lunch each month under the tutelage of center director Becky McDermott. The lunch is served by a volunteer group of Tzu Chi ladies in the area as an outreach ministry for the community.
Another highlight of the year is the annual fundraiser performance. This year the Capitol Steps will be performing on Sunday, October 26 at the Vienna Presbyterian Church. Tickets are just $25 in advance. For more information go to www.scov.org/tickets-information.
The center does not receive any government support and relies on the fundraisers, donations and some support from the 18 sponsoring church congregations. John Tate was affiliated with one of the founding parishes. For the last ten years of John’s ministry (1990-99) he was pastor of the Oakton United Methodist Church. 1994 was the year that the Shepherd’s Center came into John’s life. Donna Grimm, who would become the first director, came to his office with a brochure and asked what he thought of the program. After reading just one paragraph, John’s comment was, “This is what I’ve been looking for” and the Shepherd’s Center of Oakton/Vienna was born. With seven churches offering financial commitments at that time, the center developed into the hugely popular senior resource it is today.
Yet another much-anticipated celebration is the annual Caregivers’ Treat on November 5. This is an opportunity to pamper about 40 family caregivers who, due to the care demands required of them, do not have much time to themselves. The day includes massages, inspirational speakers, entertainment and lunch provided by Arden Oaks.
Around Thanksgiving on November 25, the center will sponsor a Community Worship service with eight participating churches. A special collection will benefit two local non-profits, Our Daily Bread and the Committee for Helping Others.
Michelle Scott is proud of the work the Shepherd’s Center does to help the area’s seniors. “We are pretty unique as one of the few non-profits that looks out for seniors and helps them remain in their own homes. We are always ready to offer a helping hand to the seniors who need it. Of course as we continue to grow, there are more seniors needing help every year. We are always happy to talk to people interested in volunteering their time to drive, make calls, help with home repairs, fundraise, and more.” If you have volunteer time available please contact the office in Vienna at 703.281.0538 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Other local Shepherd’s Centers are in Annandale, Fairfax/Burke and McLean. If you live outside of the Northern Virginia area, there are Shepherd’s Centers in many areas of the country.
Even before Dorothy Evans’ present volunteering at SCOV, she found pleasure in helping others. When she lived in Brooklyn, she volunteered with the New York City Marathon, passing out water or doing whatever was needed. Scott is not surprised. She comments, ”Dorothy is such a joy to work with. She brightens up the office whenever she is here. Everybody knows her and she’s here every Thursday morning without fail. A couple of times, when there has been a blizzard, we have had to insist that she stay home. She takes her work very seriously.” For Dorothy, it gives her something to look forward to each week. As a volunteer, Dorothy Evans demonstrates the Shepherd Center’s goal of helping older adults “live a life that matters.”