Together stories

Meet Laura

"Each number represents a changed life."

We spend a lot of time counting…the number of people served, numbers of volunteers, numbers of hours they’ve given, and so on. These numbers are of course important, but it’s important to remember that each number represents a person: a person whose life has been changed because of what we do. Meet Laura.

On Tuesday mornings just before 11AM, you can always find her arriving at chair yoga class. She piles out of the car with three ladies, all friends who carpool faithfully for class every week at Shepherd’s Center of Webster-Kirkwood (MO), an Aging Forward Affiliate. Chair yoga goes beyond just fun times with friends for Laura. Ask and she’ll quickly tell you all about her improved health. She’s diabetic and as a result of her commitment to her weekly chair yoga, as well as line dance classes and cooking and nutrition programs at Shepherd’s Center, Laura’s doctor has taken her off insulin. Determined to maintain this milestone, Laura now attends chair yoga three times a week. Shepherd’s Centers programs offer important friendships. They offer wonderful educational opportunities. And they offer outstanding health benefits as well. Just ask Laura. She’ll quickly tell you about the new lease on life she’s found through Shepherd’s Centers programs!

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Meet Katherine

"Before I had an existence, but now, I have a life!"

I moved to North Carolina to be near my son”, Katherine recounts. “It was good being closer to him, but my lifelong friends were all back home.” Her first experience with an Aging Forward affiliate, Shepherd's Center of Greater Winston-Salem (NC), was because I needed a ride to a medical appointment,” she recalls. “My son had to work, so he arranged for a Shepherd’s Center volunteer to drive me.” “It was awkward at first,” she admits.

But the volunteer, Nancy, was gracious and talkative. Knowing Katherine was headed to a physical therapy appointment, she asked if she’d be interested in attending a Tai Chi class offered by Shepherd’s Center. “I told her my balance was really bad, but Nancy persisted.” And so a couple weeks later she found herself in her first Tai Chi class. “I loved it and have now been doing Tai Chi for over four years. My balance is so much better!” From Tai Chi Katherine learned about Shepherd’s Center’s Adventures in Learning program. It was a line dancing class that caught her attention. “I signed up and loved it!” She kept at it, and today Katherine travels to nearby cities to dance on Friday or Saturday nights! “Before I became involved with Shepherd’s Center,” she says. “I had an existence. But now thanks to Shepherd’s Center, I have a life!

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Meet Janis

"Volunteers with Heart... and Muscle!"

As a professor in the Department of Physical Education, Janis had always stayed active, filled with energy and a passion for active living. Upon retirement, she pledged to not only stay active, but continue her joy of teaching others. Retired from college teaching, this active 86-year-old found Shepherd’s Center of Spartanburg (SC) and for the last 15 years has taught aerobics three days a week – logging more than 2,000 volunteer hours. To say that Janis is an inspiration to the older adults who participate in her classes would be an understatement. She has a loyal group, if not a following. They are inspired and motivated by the octogenarian to make exercise a part of their lives. With Janis’ skills and guidance, Shepherd’s Center has expanded their exercise options and today is the only older adult-focused organization offering a weeklong fitness program. In addition to aerobics classes, cardio line dancing, and Tai Chi are also offered.

While these classes all bring fun and joy to participants, nearly every one also reports documented health improvements, including reduced blood pressure, better range of motion, improved balance, stronger muscle tone, greater bone strength, and overall weight control. In fact, so important are the benefits of these classes that Shepherd’s Center of Spartanburg has won awards for its diabetes management initiative, of which Janis’ exercise classes are an integral part. As important as the health aspects, class participants say that’s not all that keeps them coming back. They fall in love with Janis, each other, and the Shepherd’s Center. With a strong body and a heart for others, Janis is clearly creating a deeply positive impact not only on those in the Spartanburg community, but across South Carolina as well!

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Meet Ray

"A New Lease on Life"

Ray’s story is a perfect example of how the support of one program and volunteer relationship blossomed into so much more. Ray was matched with a volunteer, Al, to help him gain access to the internet and use a tablet to connect with his nephew in another state. Al visited for several weeks, helping Ray become more comfortable using his device and the internet.

On one visit, he learned that Ray had been putting off his routine colonoscopy for more than a year because he didn’t have a way to get home following the procedure. Al coordinated with the Shepherd’s Center to have another volunteer, Daphne, not only drive but accompany Ray at every step. After the procedure, she made sure to understand follow-up care, drove Ray home, and made sure he was resting comfortably before leaving. Ray did need follow-up treatment, but if it weren’t for Daphne and Al, who helped him get to a screening, the outcome might have been far worse.

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