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Shepherd Center closing after 30 years of service

Matthew Lane • Oct 31, 2019 at 7:00 PM

KINGSPORT — For nearly 30 years, the Shepherd Center of Kingsport has been helping senior citizens be more independent and stay in their homes longer. It did so by driving folks to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store, providing free medical equipment and educating seniors on how to use the latest technologies.

These services were invaluable and volunteers undoubtedly improved the lives of thousands of seniors in our region over the years. When the organization started, no one else was providing those services to the community.

However, times have changed and other organizations have come along offering similar services. Because of this, officials with the Shepherd Center decided to close its doors for good on Thursday.

“It’s very difficult to close this down for those of us who have been a part of this,” said Retta Overturff, a member of the Shepherd Center board of directors and a longtime volunteer with the organization. “It is bittersweet and hard for us to close down something we’ve put so much time, resources and love into, but now it’s time to celebrate how good it’s been and how many people it’s helped.”

ABOUT THE SHEPHERD CENTER

The Shepherd Center was located at the corner of West Ravine and Powers Street across from Holston Valley Medical Center — on the first floor of a two-story building owned by Ballad Health. The organization was a United Way agency. In addition to that annual funding, the Shepherd Center would rely on donations from individuals, churches, civic clubs and local businesses to keep its mission on track.

When the organization first started, volunteers taught seniors practical skills with the latest technologies, Overturff explained: operating a microwave, programming a VCR or successfully navigating the television remote.

The Shepherd Center also had a “handy hands” program where volunteers would do small jobs for seniors, like changing out the batteries in smoke detectors, raking leaves or building wheelchair ramps. Later on, Overturff said, the organization’s signature programs were transportation and providing free medical equipment to individuals and in-home health organizations.

“When we started the center 29 years ago, very few organizations were doing what we were doing. We were on the cutting edge,” Overturff said. “Today, there are other organizations who do these things quite well, plus (our director) was ready to retire.”

PASSING THE TORCH

The signature services the Shepherd Center offered will essentially be handled by two organizations, Overturff said — MyRide TN (a state-wide program that offers door-through-door transportation for seniors ages 60 and up) will handle the transportation services, while the medical equipment donations will come from Hope Community Church.

Katherine Scoggins, who has served as the executive director of the Shepherd Center for more than a decade, spent this week wrapping up the remaining work at the office, making sure all of the office equipment and supplies went to other nonprofits, churches and individuals who could use them. Only a few items remained on Thursday, some with sticky notes attached bearing the name of a future owner.

“People have asked me what I’m going to do. I tell them I’m going to get caught up on sleep for a while,” Scoggins said rather jokingly. But in all seriousness, the longtime volunteer immediately followed up with a lengthier response.

“I’m a nonprofit person at heart. My late mother told me when I took the job that I better be really good to these people because they helped raise you,” Scoggins said. “That has stayed with me every day. These are Sunday school teachers, choir teachers, music teachers and school teachers. People I hadn’t seen in decades going back to my pre-school days.”

Shepherd Center officials plan to hold a celebration and retirement event on Nov. 21 at 3 p.m. in the fellowship hall at First Broad Street United Methodist Church. Anyone who would like to join them is welcome to attend. For more information, call (423) 782-6857.

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