LifeQuest’s mission is to promote healthful longevity and active aging through lifelong learning and meaningful volunteerism within the community.
What is LifeQuest
LifeQuest of Arkansas, a nonprofit charitable organization, was founded in 1981 as The Shepherd's Center of Little Rock to provide a framework through which adults can plan and create a more purposeful and rewarding life. LifeQuest is not a religious organization, yet fourteen interfaith congregations joined together to fund and begin LifeQuest. Today there are many various affiliated congregations, corporate sponsors and educational partners. LifeQuest membership currently stands at more than 2,500. Participants come from 13 counties in central Arkansas, 8 states and 2 countries.
LifeQuest educational classes are available to adults. Our program is based on an open-university concept, with no homework, tests or grades. Four educational terms are conducted annually: three eight week terms and one four week summer term.
Each term offers online and in-person classes Mondays - Thursdays with lecture/discussion and hands-on classes on a variety of topics:
- Art & hobbies (painting, genealogy, Mah Jongg)
- Exercise (yoga, tai chi)
- Digital learning workshops (Introduction to iPhone, cellphone photography)
- Health & science (anatomy, cooking classes, geography)
- History & politics (art history, current events, foreign policy)
- Literature and languages (book studies, Spanish instruction)
- Music and theater (classical & folk music, movies, history & appreciation)
- Social topics (religion classes, retirement issues)
New classes are added each term; all are developed and coordinated by a Curriculum Committee made up of LifeQuest volunteers. Authorities in their respective fields serve as volunteer instructors. In-person classes are held at Second Presbyterian Church, 600 Pleasant Valley Drive in Little Rock, Arkansas, while online classes are available via Zoom and Facebook. During a term, most online classes are recorded for later viewing. The eight week registration fee is $85 and covers all classes. The registration fee for our four week summer term is $45. Some classes require an additional class fee for supplies.
LifeQuest of Arkansas began in 1981 as Shepherd’s Center of Little Rock. Shepherd’s Centers originated in 1972 when Dr. Elbert Cole of Kansas City, Missouri, met with a group of retired parishioners from Central United Methodist Church to discuss how to make life for the older adults they served more meaningful, secure, and stimulating. This group shared a belief in the richness and diversity of the human spirit, the excitement of new adventures, the stimulation of new ideas, and the thrill of investing time, energy, skills and resources in something that promised to outlast them. (from A Proven Experiment: The Shepherd’s Center Story)
From the Shepherd’s Centers of American website, January 2023:
Today there are more than 55 Shepherd’s Centers affiliates and 165,000 members. Together, we offer a continuum of enriching services to over 165,000 individuals every year including: support services such as transportation, handy helpers, friendly visits, grocery shopping, and respite care to help older adults remain living in their own homes and communities.
· lifelong-learning designed for personal growth and enrichment
· health and wellness opportunities that enhance and maintain physical and cognitive well-being
· volunteering opportunities that provide purpose and personal satisfaction in giving back to the community
Our work not only alleviates loneliness, but provides exciting opportunities for older adults to take on new challenges, learn new skills, make new friends, and serve others.
Inspired by this mission, W.J. “Jay” Jernigan Jr. discussed the concept with his minister, Reverend Allen Smith, senior pastor at Second Presbyterian in Little Rock. The Session of Second Presbyterian Church authorized a task force to implement Shepherd's Center of Little Rock into the life of the church and provided a $3,000 budget.
In the early stages, it became apparent that the work required would be too much for any single congregation and an interfaith approach was necessary. Accordingly, a meeting was held on January 16, 1981, to enlist the support of ministers, priests and rabbis of churches and synagogues in the area and to get their key people involved. Jay Jernigan led the charge to create an interfaith Shepherd's Center of Little Rock with the help of 11 area congregations and the Presbytery of Arkansas. In Jay’s own words:
“Change is coming at us faster than ever – changing attitudes, politics, changing ideas about culture and, perhaps most important … a changed economic picture as the nation finds itself in need of creating jobs, expanding education, and improving health care…What endures in times like these – indeed, in any time—is what we at Shepherd’s Center [LifeQuest] are striving to bring you from season to season: a program that is topical and alive to you, that understand and explains your world, and that manages to leave you a bit smarter and richer for your efforts and improvement. What endures? Quality, reality and certainty of change.”
The Shepherd's Center of Little Rock opened its doors in an impressive celebration on October 7, 1981. The vision behind the dream had been realized. An interfaith, ecumenical "mutual ministry" for older people in the community had become a reality.
While the name change to LifeQuest of Arkansas came in 2003 to differentiate our organization from other “Shepherds” groups in Central Arkansas, LifeQuest continues to support and be a proud member of Shepherd’s Centers of America.
In 2022, 1,419 LifeQuest members attended 147 classes, taught by 270 volunteers. While we are still growing back our membership to pre-pandemic levels, we are encouraged by the number of new members joining each term, the quality of instruction and programming we provide, and the exemplary leadership offered by a dedicated group of volunteers.