July 25, 2022

Shepherd Community Center: From an inspired vision to a thriving and essential ministry

Shepherd Community Center is a nonprofit organization established in 1985 with a simple but staggering goal – to break the cycle of poverty on the near Eastside of Indianapolis through a holistic approach that meets the physical, emotional, spiritual and academic needs of neighbors from cradle to career – and beyond.

Here is a look at pivotal points in history that have shaped Shepherd’s ministry and culture:


Westside Church of the Nazarene sponsors a Thanksgiving Dinner at the century-old Central Church of the Nazarene, 1625 E. Washington St. Led by JK Warrick, members of the Church of the Nazarene minister to neighbors living in urban Indianapolis.


Westside Church commissions Dean Cowles and 12 congregation members to begin compassionate ministry in the old Central Church, offering food and clothing. The name is changed to the Central Nazarene Mission.


The name is changed to Shepherd Community Center. Shepherd purchases a warehouse building next to the former Central Church, adding 14,000 square feet. Programming expands to include a food pantry and after-school childcare.


Shepherd and the Indianapolis Homeless Network partner to open the Day Center serving homeless men. Shepherd starts summer day camps for children, enrolling 48 kids.


Jay Height is named executive director after serving as director of development. The Indianapolis Police Department names Height as “crime fighter of the year.”


Land behind Shepherd is acquired, and a playground, garden and park are installed.


The Indianapolis Day Center for homeless men becomes an independent organization. Shepherd focuses on working with children and families.


Shepherd Academy launches with a kindergarten class of 12 students.


Shepherd celebrates 20 years of serving on the near Eastside of Indianapolis and makes plans to find a larger facility.


Shepherd moves to 4107 E. Washington St., renovating a building formerly used by a fraternal organization.


The Continuum of Care, a 25-year plan designed to help families break the cycle of poverty, is introduced. The continuum is designed to help families overcome challenges in all areas of life: physical, emotional, spiritual and academic.


Shepherd launches Family Ministries to support families of children served by Shepherd. The ministry includes a free health clinic for children and their families, led by volunteer health care professionals.


Shepherd partners with Edna Martin Christian Center to create the Martindale-Brightwood Center for Working Families.


Shepherd partners with Indianapolis Public School 58 to connect with neighborhood students through an after-school program in the school.


Shepherd celebrates 30 years of serving on the near Eastside of Indianapolis by launching the Shalom Project, which focuses on feeding the hungry, promoting better health and improving the housing stock on the Eastside. As part of the project, Shepherd partners with the city to team a police officer and a paramedic to assist neighbors with medical, safety and other needs. Shepherd begins to host a Celebrate Recovery program to meet weekly with neighbors who struggle with addictions.


Shepherd renovates its main building to include more classrooms, a computer lab, storage and a teaching kitchen to help families learn to cook healthy meals.


Shepherd launches its own Center for Working Families, splitting from the Martindale-Brightwood Center for Working Families.


Shepherd partners with the Minnie Hartmann Center to open a preschool in the newly renovated center at 340 N. Sherman Dr. The Shepherd Neighborhood Childcare at Minnie Hartmann serves children from birth to kindergarten and hosts before and after-school care for elementary-age students.


Shepherd partners with the Indianapolis Public Library to establish a Shared System Library at the center, giving children and their families access to books and other resources.


Gleaners Food Bank awards Shepherd a $120,000 grant to expand the food pantry.

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