After 25 years, the Shepherd’s Center of Greenbrier Valley continues to ‘hope, help, and serve’ the community

By Matthew Young, RealWV

LEWISBURG, W.Va. – For the past quarter-century, the Shepherd’s Center of Greenbrier Valley (SCGV) has been a steadfast beacon for older adults in pursuit of education, entertainment, support, and companionship. Now, as the organization nears its silver anniversary, a year-long celebration of what has been accomplished will serve as the place-setting for all that is yet to come. 

“We have a positive aging model,” Shepherd’s Center of Greenbrier Valley founder and former Board President Ann McClung told RealWV on Tuesday. “This isn’t a program where the seniors are just entertained – this is where older adults are out learning, serving others, connecting, and decreasing social isolation within the community.” 

Described as, “an interfaith ministry to sustain mature adults to live independently by providing opportunities for lifelong learning, community service, caring relationships, and spiritual growth,” the SCGV strives to cultivate an environment of inclusivity. With programs such as “Adventures in Learning,” which provides continuing education opportunities, exercise classes specifically tailored to older adults, and transportation services for medical appointments and other errands, the Shepherd’s Center offers resources and engagement opportunities to meet most needs and interests. 

This is done, Ann says, through community buy-in and cooperation. 

“It’s not just one congregation,” Ann noted. “It’s truly a community with many of our local congregations who help sponsor, which makes it much stronger.”

The structure allows individuals of all ages, and who are not necessarily part of any other group, to volunteer or participate as they desire. And with a network of 55 affiliate centers throughout the United States, the Greenbrier Valley chapter of the Shepherd’s Center has the support of a national organization at its disposal. 

Beginnings in the Valley

The idea for the SCGV was born in 1998, and, as Ann puts it, ‘The answers to my prayers came through the Shepherd’s Center.”

A career spent in the service of geriatric therapy – and the struggles associated with her own elderly mother’s declining health – led Ann to find inspiration in the Shepherd Center’s message of positive aging. Within a year, Ann, along with Pastor Julian Sulgit, were granted a West Virginia charter from the Shepherd’s Center of America, and facilitated the Greenbrier Valley’s first “Adventures in Learning” program in the fall of 1999. 

As the calendar turned the page on the new millennium, Ann began serving as volunteer executive director, a Board of Trustees was assembled, and nonprofit status was granted. The organization’s initial funding came in the form of a “Faith in Action Grant,” totaling $35,000. This allowed for Judy Long’s hiring as the SCGV’s first paid executive director.

With the pieces beginning to fall into place, it wasn’t long before the SCGV embarked upon what has become its most ambitious and impactful outreach program.

Gwen’s Meals

“Gwen Clingman ran a small market that morphed into a very basic family restaurant,” Ann said of the program’s namesake. “She would serve meals from her kitchen.”

The small market which Gwen had run was the well-known “Clingman’s Market” in downtown Lewisburg. Now home to the Stardust Cafe, the building served the community as Clingman’s Market for 57 years. 

“If Gwen knew of people in the community who were home-bound or having difficulty, she found people to take meals to them.”

“In her later years, she became unable to continue doing that,” Ann added. “She didn’t mind closing (the market) down, but she was worried about the people she wasn’t able to feed. That’s when we took over the ministry that she was already doing, by delivering meals.”

The “Gwen’s Meals” program, which was initially funded through a grant from the Hollowell Foundation, has grown to more than 160 meal deliveries each week throughout the entirety of Greenbrier County. And the legacy of the Clingman family remains secure, as Gwen’s daughter, Alice Hollingsworth, now serves as Board President of the SCGV.

“It continues to grow,” Ann said. “We don’t try to duplicate any service that’s already there. Even though there is a Meals on Wheels program, ours takes a bit of a different philosophy. We do a friendly visit with it, rather than just leaving the meal.”

“Where there’s a need, we hope to be able to help and serve.”

The May 27 flooding of Lewisburg’s Morgan Manor Apartments created holiday havoc in the lives of those who live there, as a malfunctioning sprinkler system displaced 18 residents. Morgan Manor specializes in providing housing for disabled individuals, and, as resident and maintenance worker Mitchell Brigman told WVNS’ Phelicity Robinson, “If not for the community’s help, many residents would be left out on the streets.”

“We’ve marshaled some churches to step up to provide meals while the residents are in the hotel,” Ann explained. “It sounds like they’re going to still be in there for a while. That was just kind of an immediate need that came up, and because we have a network that we can reach out to different groups and congregations, we can meet needs.”

“We want to reach areas we find that have needs,” Ann continued. “We’ve tried different outreaches in other communities, and we invite everybody to come for sharing and fellowship.”

“Where there’s a need, we hope to be able to help and serve,” Ann added.

What does the future hold for the SCGV?

“Our mission is lifelong learning, service to others, and spiritual growth,” Ann explained. “We encourage people that they can leave a legacy that is around a lot longer than they are. That’s a very important part of the Shepherd’s Center.”

“Each year we’ve expanded in some way,” Ann noted. “Gwen’s Meals continues to grow. With our classes, we continue to look for ways to bring people from the community in as teachers. We now have sessions in Lewisburg and Rainelle.”

In addition to Lewisburg and Rainelle, Ann noted, the SCGV has begun the new monthly “Coffee Talk” program in White Sulphur Springs.

“We’ve brought in around 40 people to discuss different topics with the community,” Ann said. “So when you ask what’s in store for the next 25 years, wherever we’re led, and wherever the need is, that’s the direction we’ll go.”

25 year celebration 

As part of the SCGV’s celebration of 25 years of service to the community, they will be hosting a picnic at Brad Paisley Park in White Sulphur Springs. The picnic will be held on Sunday, June 23, from 1 – 3 p.m. There is no cost to attend. However, those planning to attend should RSVP to the SCGV office, by calling 304-645-4196.

In addition, a 25th Anniversary Fundraiser Celebration Gala will be held at the WVSOM Student Center, on Tuesday, Sept. 24. Individual tickets and sponsorship options will be announced in the near future.

For more information about the Shepherd’s Center of Greenbrier Valley, including upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, or to make a financial donation, visit scgvwv.org

Facebook
Twitter
Reddit
Email

Related stories

Jefferson County Alumni Speak

In 1866, Page Jackson High School became the first publicly funded school for African American students in Jefferson County. The school was symbolic for African

Give us your feedback