Detailed History of the SWC

In the late 1970’s Sister Cockburn, leader of a group from St. Francis Xavier Parish, contacted Rev. George Clifford and Rev. Rob McGregor of Wall St. United Church suggesting that they might work together with other churches to help seniors struggling to stay in their own homes as they aged. They heard about a program in Kansas City, MO, that functioned with that purpose in mind. A steering committee of lay persons from each church in the local Ministerial Association was given the task of developing a similar organization for the seniors of Brockville. The group laid the groundwork by developing the structure and policies for a new organization called the Shepherd’s Centre. Its public launching was held on April 24, 1980, with the motto of “For Seniors, By Seniors.”

The Centre had a two-fold purpose:

To provide a place for seniors to participate in activities that would help keep them socially and physically active. In the beginning there was a Board and a Volunteer Coordinator who organized the initial activities, 13 in all. The Shepherd Centre’s first home was provided by the Brockville General Hospital complete with free rent for the first 17 months.

To provide Home Support Services; which included Transportation, Friendly Visiting, small Home Maintenance & Repairs, weekly Luncheons and Telephone Reassurance Calls. These services were provided by the more physically capable participants of the Shepherd Centre…remember the motto…”For Seniors, By Seniors.” Eventually the Ministry of Health, Long Term Care Division, began to fund these particular services throughout Ontario. This enabled the Shepherd Centre to hire a Coordinator to organize the work provided by the volunteers as it became too daunting for a volunteer coordinator.

As time went by the community’s need for the Home Support Services grew to such a level that they needed to become a program that focused entirely on the needs of those seniors who were more frail and shut-in. In 1998, the Ministry of Health transferred the funds and the accompanying responsibility for the Home Support Services to VON (now CPHC).

This was a transitional time for the Shepherd Centre. The original Board was dissolved and a new Board began with the sole focus of providing activities which would help people remain socially and physically active for as long as possible. After reviewing their options, the Board chose to rent space from Wall St. United Church to run its programs and to rename itself The Shepherd’s Welcome Centre, keeping a link to its roots. The focus remained “For Seniors, By Seniors.” That is why every aspect of the SWC functions on a volunteer basis. Our Board, Office Staff, and all 23 different Course Leaders are volunteers.

Since 1998 the SWC’s funds come from two sources: an annual donation from the Shepherd’s Centre (Brockville) Foundation and participant fees. The Foundation began through a bequest given by a man named Lawrence Stein. At the time of his death he requested that his endowment would benefit seniors in this area. As a result, his lawyer saw to it that a board was formed to invest and manage the bequest. The subsequent Foundation continues to make possible the Shepherd’s Welcome Centre. Thank you Mr. Stein


Compiled by Cheryl Nix

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