Older Adults: Adventures In Learning Starts Oct. 14

Christopher Eshelman is pictured with his wife, Robin. Submitted photo.

Fort Scott’s First United Methodist has made plans to provide educational and social opportunities that bring older adults together for personal growth.

Shepherd’s Center is a program to counteract the negative effects of loneliness and isolation by connecting older adults to empowering programs that foster friendships, according to a press release from the church.

The program in Fort Scott will begin on Friday, October 14th, with a session from 11:30 to 3:00 p.m. at the United Methodist Church at Third and National Avenue.

This kickoff event is free to attend.

Pre-registration is required in order to receive a free lunch from Marsha’s Deli. One can preregister by calling or visiting the church, during office hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon or visit www.firstumcfsks.org/shepherdscenteroffortscott to register online. The church phone number is 620.223.1950.

Shepherd’s Centers of America is a network of interfaith community-based organizations designed by, with and for older adults, according to https://www.shepherdcenters.org/shepherds/#history

The  Adventures in Learning program is the signature program of Shepherd’s Centers that supports personal growth and discovery with courses, cultural enrichment workshops, hobby, and recreational opportunities, according to the press release.

Subjects often cover a wide range of topics: computer and technology, finance, literature, music and art appreciation, world religion, “how-to,” politics, current events, historical events and figures, foreign languages, hobbies, and so much more. Most class instructors are retired older adults, with a number of special interests presented by community experts.

“We got enrolled in the Healthy Congregations program through our church conference and we were going through our assets and needs assessment processes here and we kept seeing loneliness, isolation as concerns… and unused space in our building as an asset,” Pastor Christopher Eshelman said. “It clicked. We made some contacts and found the Wichita, Topeka, and National organizations very helpful in getting us started here in Fort Scott.”

The inaugural Fort Scott event features keynote speaker Patty LaRoche with a presentation entitled “Aged to Perfection.”

Patty LaRoche. Submitted photo.

Afternoon sessions to choose from:

Cathy Werling  will present on the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes and how it has inspired her.

Cathy Werling. Submitted photo.


Larry Shead will present on using technology to connect with family and friends.

Larry Shead. Submitted photo.


Ronda Hassig will be discussing her book “The Greatest Test of Courage.” Copies will be available for purchase.

Ronda Hassig. Submitted photo.
Brief introductions on each of the speaker’s talks are on the registration page: https://www.firstumcfsks.org/shepherdscenteroffortscott

In between these sessions, there will be snacks and plenty of time to connect with other attendees.

The event will close  with Eshelman facilitating a discussion of future plans for our Shepherd’s Center / Adventures in Learning program.

“Your ideas for topics and presenters will be welcome as we shape this program to meet local needs and interests,” he said.

The next session will be March 10, 2023 and with a plan to offer three or four total events in 2023, then continuing to expand in years to come.

This program launch is being made possible by First UMC’s participation in the Great Plains UMC Conference’s Healthy Congregations program which provides grants to help churches identify needs and work to improve spiritual, physical, social, and emotional health in their congregations and communities.

​”I served on staff at both East and West Heights United Methodist Churches in Wichita and both hosted similar Shepherd’s Center programs,” Eshelman said. “I wasn’t directly involved, but the energy in the building on the days of their sessions and the way the programs so clearly helped older adults both in the church and from the community as a whole, stay active and connected to one another really stuck with me. So many memories of smiling faces and great conversations.”

“We are delighted to offer this resource to the Fort Scott community and excited to see the program grow,” he said.


Shepherd’s Centers are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year after being founded in Kansas City in 1972.


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