Shepherd’s Center program discovers a surprising connection to a 50th wedding anniversary

Sue and Malcom Pettit on their wedding day 50 years ago.

Shepherd’s Center program discovers a surprising connection to a 50th wedding anniversary
July 29
13:12 2020

By Linda Lewis

Sue and Malcolm Pettit had hoped to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with friends and relatives. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made those plans impossible, but because of a new program of The Shepherd’s Center of Greater Winston-Salem, their anniversary will not go unnoticed.

When COVID-19 made its way into our community in mid-March, The Shepherd’s Center of Greater Winston-Salem faced the challenge of coming up with new ways to support older adults. With many people already struggling with social isolation and loneliness, the pandemic only made things worse. Prior to March 16, Shepherd’s Center volunteers were providing transportation, helping with home repairs, making friendly visits, and offering respite breaks for caregivers. All those face-to-face volunteer interactions came to an abrupt halt as concerns for everyone’s health and safety took priority.

In an effort to keep volunteers engaged and to maintain contact with older adults who are sheltering in place, The Shepherd’s Center initiated “Card Connections.” Through this program, volunteers send hand-written notes on a regular basis to people who may find themselves more isolated during this time.

One volunteer, Annette Collins, makes her own cards and has found great meaning in writing to those on her list. In an effort to create a deeper relationship, she invited card recipients to write back to her so they could become pen pals of sorts. To her delight, Annette received a letter from Sue Pettit. Sue and her husband, Malcolm, have received services from The Shepherd’s Center for some time. Part of Sue’s letter talked about their health struggles and the challenges they are facing, but she ended with the delightful news that she and Malcolm will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on August 1. 

Sue and Malcolm met on a blind date – with other dates! Over time, they decided they liked each other better than the dates they were with. It was quite a quick courtship – they met in March and got married in August. Sue related that their wedding took place at Westview Baptist Church where Malcolm’s father was the pastor. Annette was even more surprised to learn that years later, the Westview congregation disbanded and generously donated the building and property to The Shepherd’s Center of Greater Winston-Salem. 

After Annette shared this letter with our staff, we decided to help Sue and Malcolm celebrate their special anniversary. A church group has volunteered to put together a gift basket and will deliver it to the couple, along with a sign for their yard. 

Annette’s simple act of sending a card and inviting a response led to the discovery of a connection that spans fifty years. More importantly, it led to new friendships and an opportunity to share in a very special 50th anniversary celebration.

Happy anniversary, Sue and Malcolm!

Linda Lewis is the associate executive director of The Shepherd’s Center of Greater Winston-Salem.

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