Peninsula seniors find friends and fun at Shepherd Center
Nestled within the All Souls’ Episcopal Church complex at 1475 Catalina Blvd. is one of the area’s most appreciated services: The Peninsula Shepherd Center (PSC).
Here, seniors may hail transportation services and gather to “get their social wiggles out,” according to program director Larysa Rudich.
Since its incorporation in 1983 as a 501(c)3 organization by Reverend William McClellan (pastor at Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church at the time), the PSC has been providing retirees with door-through-door transportation services and other opportunities for independence.
According to the Shepherd Centers of America website, the first Shepherd Center began in 1972 in Kansas City. (PSC is the only Shepherd Center in California.) The Centers are shepherded by a coalition of churches and service organizations that help seniors in a particular geographic area.
Jean Durgan, former PSC executive director of 18 years and present-day board of directors president, told Point Loma-OB Monthly the Peninsula branch began after McClellan noticed a significantly larger number of seniors here in comparison to the rest of San Diego.
The age 60-and-up population represents 18.1 percent of the total population in the Midway District, Point Loma and Ocean Beach, according to the PSC website.
In light of this senior population, the PSC’s mission statement asserts its purpose: “to provide a support system so that older adults may live independently and self-sufficiently in their own homes for as long as possible, while providing opportunities to learn, socialize and serve.”
“But, the heart and core of the PSC is our transportation services,” Rudich added.
The transportation services started as a means by which seniors could get a ride to doctor appointments, noted Durgan. “Then we found that people needed lifts to go to the grocery store and get their hair done, too.”
The PSC offers two types of rides: van shuttle service and volunteer driver service. For both, seniors must be age 60 or older and live in the Midway District (92110), Point Loma (92106) or Ocean Beach (92107). All drivers are screened through the PSC.
Van shuttle service provides:
• group trips to grocery stores, local errands, churches and social activities and
• five to six days a week of shuttle service in an ADA-compliant van.
Volunteer driver services, which are carried out in the volunteer’s own vehicle, provide:
• one-on-one transportation to non-emergency medical appointments and necessary errands and
• transportation up to 25 miles outside the Point Loma area.
“Most people at PSC are fairly healthy, but they can’t drive because of their vision or something like that. Still, they want to stay in their homes, though they don’t have family around who can take them places,” said Durgan.
“When members first start, or when family members first call for their parents, I think they’re a little nervous for these seniors to get into the van on the volunteer drives,” Rudich mused, “but once they practice and get used to it, it’s such a valuable service. It helps seniors out and they feel really independent.”
Both Durgan and Rudich emphasized that PSC’s transportation services are door-through-door, not door-to-door, meaning volunteers will help seniors carry in their groceries or help them into their homes.
In addition to transportation, the PSC Senior Lounge opened after space became available in the All Souls’ Episcopal Church in 2015. Here, seniors can stop in to play games, use the computers, work on a puzzle, play bridge, or chat with friends. The space is about to be expanded, with the new lounge estimated to be available by mid-April, which may lead to new activities, Durgan said.
Scheduled activities at the center include:
• Lunch Bunch: A monthly program with a speaker, meal and visit with friends. Reservations requested. The cost is $5 to attend.
• Computer Class: Volunteer David McColl teaches computer basics (including smart, safe Internet use), 9:30 to 11 a.m. Mondays in the Senior Lounge. To reserve a spot, call (619) 223-1640.
• Needlers: This knitting, crocheting and craft group meets 10 a.m. third Mondays in the Senior Lounge to create pieces for fun and also to donate to hospitals and charities.
• Chat & Fold: Seniors gather for fellowship, refreshments and conversation while labeling, folding and sealing copies of the PSC’s monthly newsletter, “The Lamb’s Tales,” 9 a.m. third Fridays.
• Alzheimer’s Support Group: 10-11:30 a.m. first and third Thursdays in the Senior Lounge.
• Excursions are a new addition for adventures outside the lounge. So far, seniors have visited the Maritime Museum and the Sheriff’s Museum in Old Town. A trip to the San Diego Museum of Art is set for later this month.
Behind the scenes, the PSC is run by a handful of caring volunteers — three office staff and four drivers. There’s also a board of directors comprised of four more like-minded Peninsula locals.
“We’re small but mighty!” Rudich declared, adding she was motivated to join the PSC team after her two children entered school. “I just really love the aspect of nurturing and helping others out,” she said. “I’ve really gotten close to the seniors we help. I talk to them daily and I feel this job is a good fit for me and the personality I have — it’s probably one of the better jobs I’ve ever had!”
A Summer Celebration for the PSC will take place 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, June 26 at the All Souls’ Episcopal Church, 1475 Catalina Blvd. with a silent auction, entertainment, lunch and opportunity drawings.
• To join PSC, membership is open to all and annual dues are $60. To qualify for the transportation services, one must live in ZIP codes 92106, 92107 or select parts of 92110. Contact PSC at (619) 223-1640 or sdpsc.org