History & leaderhship

Our Purpose

Bringing together individuals, from all walks of life, to celebrate the joys of aging​

A pioneer in the field, the nationwide alliance of Aging Forward 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 story

Our history & 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.

The legacy of Aging Forward

For nearly five decades now, Aging Forward has been a beacon for moving forward 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.

Aging Forward is a network of interfaith, community-based organizations designed by, with, and for older adults. Each local affiliate Aging Forward is a separate nonprofit led by an independent board of directors. As one of the first organizations to celebrate the power of aging, Aging Forward is dedicated to establishing new centers, supporting existing ones, and contributing to the national aging network.


The mission of Aging Forward 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 in 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.

Our leadership

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

Julie Adams-Buchanan

Executive Director
Shepherd’s Center of Richmond
Richmond, VA

About Julie

About Julie

 “I truly found my calling when I embarked on a career in volunteer administration with The Shepherd’s Center of Richmond. Volunteerism is at the heart of everything that is good in our world. Volunteers are driven to make the world a better place and transform the dynamics of the workplace. I find that when the daily grind of the office gets me down, it is interacting with my volunteers that give me inspiration and a renewal of purpose. I am energized by working with these individuals I call angels on earth. At the end of the day, it is rewarding to know that you have been a part of bringing a change for good to your community and humankind.”

Julia Burrowes

Thought Leadership & Impact Manager
American Society on Aging
Matthews, NC

About Julia

About Julia

Aging is such a gift and one that I hope can be enjoyed by all. I was introduced to the Shephard’s Center as a student, and it has helped to shape how and why I work in the aging services field. Helping others to age with grace and dignity is truly my calling. Whether it be providing direct care services in your local community or large coalitions advocating for policy changes at the federal level, I am always in awe of the power of like-minded people coming together to effect positive change for the greater good. The Shephard’s Center model is proof of the power of volunteers and fierce advocates. I am grateful to be a part of this story.

Dr. Michael C Mickens

Executive Director
Alliance for Full Acceptance
Charleston, SC

About Michael

About Michael

My initial interest in Shepherd’s Centers Of America was my realization that older adults are one of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations in society, often experiencing significantly higher inequities and disparities than the average member of the population, including everything from economic insecurity, health disparities, food insecurity, and social isolation.

As a community health advocate whose passion includes addressing the whole life needs of people including physical, mental, spiritual, social, and environmental health, I felt this was something that I could not ignore, so I accepted the invitation to serve the aged population as an advocate for their total health and well-being. One of my favorite quotes comes from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “If I can help somebody as I pass along if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Oren Renick, JD, Th.M.

Professor, School of Health Administration Texas State University
San Marcos, TX

About Oren

About Oren

“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.’”

Janet Seckel-Cerrotti

Executive Director
Boston, MA

About Janet

About Janet

Janet Seckel-Cerrotti is the Executive Director of FriendshipWorks, an interfaith volunteer caregiving program serving elders in Boston, MA. Janet has been with FriendshipWorks (formerly called MATCH-UP Interfaith Volunteers) since its inception in 1984. Janet has held a range of senior leadership positions in numerous organizations serving the needs of and advocating for the elderly and has been a long-time friend of Shepherd’s Center of America.

Chuck Smithers, Treasurer

Certified Public Accountant and Chartered Global Management Accountant
Orange Park, FL

About Chuck

About Chuck

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
Shepherd’s Center of Webster-Kirkwood
Saint Louis, MO

About Betsy

About Betsy

“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 educational programs, volunteer opportunities, community outreach, or helping hands – the Shepherd’s Center brings people together and everyone belongs.”


Mike Stanfill, BS Civil Engineering

Board Member
Shepherd’s Center of Topeka
Topeka, KS

About Mike

About Mike

“When I retired, I learned about the Shepherd’s Center of Topeka. I soon got involved with several of the activities from playing pickleball to Adventures in Learning. To learn there was a group in town whose mission is to help older adults remain socially active with both physical and mental activities, have chances to grow spiritually, and stay involved in the community appealed to me. I have served on my local Shepherd’s Center’s board as a Trustee, Chair, and Treasurer. I am honored to have a chance to work on the SCA board to help the network of local centers meet the needs of the older adults in their communities.

Rachel A. Stiff, MA

Mississippi Baptist Seminary
Jackson, MS

About Rachel

About Rachel

“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 Director

About Sarah

About Sarah

Sarah 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 & Services

About Teresa

About Teresa

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.

Mary Wiles

Marketing & Communications Manager

About Mary

About Mary

Mary has been a member of the Shepherd’s Center of America team since 2022 and currently provides support to marketing and communication initiatives. She is grateful to be a part of an organization that enriches and promotes support amongst the community.

Partnership opportunities

Successful partnerships with businesses, foundations, and organizations are essential to the mission of Shepherd’s Centers of America.

Philanthropic gifts that drive growth
Employee-centric volunteer or donor partnerships
High-impact marketing and awareness relationships

Our partners

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.

Learn more about partnership opportunities!

We’ll work together to develop a unique philanthropic program that connects your organization to our network.

For more information, please contact Sarah Cheney at sarah@aging-forward.org.