By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Every day for the past seven years, Carol Coe has gone to the Shepherd Center East in East Lake for one of her favorite activities.
“I crochet baby clothes and hats for the homeless,” said Coe, 72. “We take the clothes for the little babies to [Children’s of Birmingham] and sometimes we even make blankets for them. We make a lot of different things and give them to the community.”
Shepherd Center East is part of Positive Maturity, a nonprofit organization that helps to enhance and empower the lives of older adults through social services and civic engagement. The group is also dedicated to erasing stigmas about getting older.
“Our aging population … are the ones who have … gotten us to where we are today,” said Positive Maturity Executive Director Penny Kakoliris. “They deserve every bit of independence they can have and as many resources as you can provide.”
Shepherd Center East caters to individuals ages 60 and older. About 25 to 30 people visit the facility each day to participate in a broad range of social activities, such as line dancing, chair exercises, Wii bowling, crochet class, card and board games, water aerobics, Bible study, and computer classes.
“This center is important because it gives our seniors the opportunity to come out from isolation and … develop socialization,” said Shepherd Center East Director June Brown. “[It gives them a chance to] interact on a daily basis with other seniors, as well as gain educational and spiritual lessons and enhancement of their well-being.”
Positive Maturity also offers a Geriatric Social Services Department that helps individuals connect with resources within their community.
“If you live in West End and need help with food services, your power bill, or repairing your roof, we’re going to tell you what resources are available. We help individuals without insurance through a program called Med Assist, which provides their medication and we’ll pay for one month of their medication needs,” said Kakoliris, who added that more than 9,000 people were served through the program last year.
Shepherd Center East, open since the 1980s, became a program of Positive Maturity in the late 1990s to early 2000s. In addition to serving as a social outlet that keeps seniors engaged with one another and their communities, the center offers exercise classes and free health screenings. It also provides daily meals as a Meals on Wheels site, both at the center and through deliveries to seniors’ homes and others in the community.
“I love it,” Coe said. “I grew up [in East Lake], and I’ve made a few friends with people. I’ve been able to help them by giving rides to the grocery store or taking them to the doctor’s office. I’ve just been glad to be of help to people.”