Personality: Peter C. Pettit

Spotlight on The Shepherd’s Center of Richmond board president

11/9/2023, 6 p.m.
For Richmonders who want to stay active in their older years, Peter Christian Pettit is helping them access avenues for …

For Richmonders who want to stay active in their older years, Peter Christian Pettit is helping them access avenues for exploration and growth.

As president of The Shepherd’s Center of Richmond board of directors, Mr. Pettit is part of the decision-making process that provides older residents new ways to stay active and engaged. And while the circumstances to him leading the organization were unfortunate, Mr. Pettit believes that he has had a positive experience so far.

“It’s been busier than I’d thought it would be, but it’s been good,” Mr. Pettit says. “We’re getting some things done and I enjoy the role.”

Since its founding in March 1984 as a branch of the larger Shepherd’s Center of America, The Shepherd’s Center of Richmond has helped older adults in the area continue to grow and live full lives through education, discussion, friendship and travel programs.

The Shepherd’s Center offers classes in art, music, science, government, current events, foreign languages, memoir writing, genealogy, exercise, and other areas of interest.

Courses mainly are taught by retired professors, professionals, and community leaders.

A luncheon speaker series also provides insight into issues, community happenings and organizations of interest to senior citizens. Courses and lunch talks are offered in person and some are also presented online.

In addition, transportation services provide rides to older citizens who can no longer drive to medical and dental appointments or to the grocery store.

It was such activities that drew Mr. Pettit to The Shepherd’s Center in 2016 when he sought to explore his interest in German language.

He participated in a German language program through the organization’s Open University program.

During the program, Mr. Pettit learned about The Shepherd’s Center’s transportation service for older adults, and began working with the organization as a volunteer driver. He later served on the board’s client services committee.

Tragedy struck The Shepherd’s Center late last year when the board’s then-president Stephanie Churchill died. Hal Costley, the board’s past president, filled Ms. Churchill’s role on an interim basis until Mr. Pettit was selected as board president last July.

It was a role now heavy with history, but one Mr. Pettit was willing to assume due to the value he saw in the organization and its mission.

“I accepted the responsibility because I admired the stimulation of minds and the compassionate response to the needs of older citizens that the center brings through its programs,” Mr. Pettit says.

“The Shepherd’s Center is one of Richmond’s best kept secrets — even after 40 years!” Mr. Pettit says. “I will be successful when that is no longer true.”

With a one-year term for board presidents that is typically renewed for another term, Mr. Pettit is open to continuing the role well into 2024.

“At this point, I’m open to a second term,” Mr. Pettit says. “I think people have been pretty open and enthusiastic about the fact that I took the role, so I’ve been happy with that.”

Meet a leader among Richmond’s older adults and this week’s Personality, Peter Christian Pettit:

Volunteer position: President, board of directors, The Shepherd’s Center of Richmond.

Occupation: Retired IT and business process analyst, Mead-Westvaco (now part of WestRock).

Birthplace: Wayne County, Mich.

Where I live now: Midlothian.

Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, The University of Michigan; MBA, The University of Toledo.

Family: Wife Carol Pettit, son Jeffrey W. Pettit.

The Shepherd’s Center of Richmond (TSCOR) is: A nonprofit organization in which older adults are dedicated to helping other older adults remain active, independent and engaged. We do this primarily through our lifelong learning programs and our transportation services. Our Open University provides a wide array of courses at nominal cost during three eight-week sessions annually.

When Richmond affiliate was founded: March 1984. We are celebrating our 40th anniversary this spring!

Richmond founder: The Rev. Robert S. Seiler.

When, where and by whom was the National Shepherd’s Center of America founded: The Shepherd’s Center of America was founded in 1971 – 1972 in Kansas City, Mo., by Elbert Cole.

Mission: The mission of Shepherd’s Centers is focused on creating meaningful opportunities for service, lifelong learning, individual well-being and independent living designed by, with and for older adults through an interfaith network of community-based organizations. Our vision is to transform the concept of aging into an empowering experience for living a life of meaning for current and future generations.

Our values are rooted in the philosophy of what all religions and people have in common — a responsibility to do good and help others. We seek to provide all individuals with meaningful experiences for personal growth and self-expression.

For healthy, active lifestyles; for social and recreational opportunities to build friendships.

By helping our neighbors, we help our communities.

Richmond headquarters: 3111 Northside Avenue, #400, Richmond, VA 23228. As of Jan. 1, 2024, the headquarters will be at 5101 Monument Ave., Suite #104, Richmond.

Ways to become involved as a client: Contact our office at (804) 355-7282 or visit us online at tscor.org.

As a volunteer: Visit our website at https://tscor.org/, volunteer/ or contact our office at (804) 355-7282.

TSCOR is funded: Through the generosity of our members, legacies and bequests, various foundations, congregations and matching gift programs. Except for funds widely available during the pandemic, we receive no government subsidies.

Strategy for achieving goals: Aggressively getting the word out about the organization and the value we bring to the community, and making sure that we are known for the excellence of the services that we provide.

No. 1 challenge: Our current number one challenge is to find volunteers who are enthusiastic about our mission and helping us achieve our goals.

Upcoming events: The Open University Winter Session begins Jan. 15, 2024, followed by our 40th anniversary celebration in March. For other events, keep your eyes on tscor.org!

How I start the day: With a good cup of coffee, 20 minutes of stretching and then a long walk by the Swift Creek Reservoir.

Three words that best describe me: Quiet, open and serious.

If I had 10 extra minutes in the day: Read the commentary of someone with an alternate point of view.

Best late-night snack: A freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookie.

The music I listen to most is: Being a former musician and having two degrees in music, I mostly listen to classical music.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Edit (and view!) photos taken during various travels – those are our souvenirs.

A quote that inspires me: “The Buck stops here.” — Harry Truman

At the top of my “to-do” list: Get my “to-do” list organized!

The best thing my parents ever taught me: Don’t pay much attention to people’s flaws — we all have them. Instead, find the goodness in people. Also, my mother was one who paid a lot of attention to the older adults around her, helping when and where possible. That set an example that I have tried to follow.

The person who influenced me the most: My (late) older brother John, who was the best “big brother” that a kid could ever hope to have had.

Book that influenced me the most: “First Things First” by Stephen Covey — as it was, for me, a primer about focusing on what is most important.

What I’m reading now: “Grant” by Ron Chernow – Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency (1869 to 1877) and his impact on the nation, beyond his Civil War contributions, has been significantly underestimated by historians.

Next goal: Increasing The Shepherd’s Center volunteer base — especially volunteer

drivers to ensure that we have enough to meet our demand, as well as increasing the reach and the diversity of our membership and participation in the Open University.