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Through their golden years

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 7/1/23

Growing up in Plain View Texas and living as a pastor’s wife for 36 years throughout the Midwest and South, Nellie Smith did not imagine that God would ever lead her to Shelbyville. But He has, …

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Through their golden years


Growing up in Plain View Texas and living as a pastor’s wife for 36 years throughout the Midwest and South, Nellie Smith did not imagine that God would ever lead her to Shelbyville. But He has, and for the last year, Nellie and her husband Mark have made Bedford their home.

While her husband serves as pastor at Bell Buckle First Baptist, Nellie is serving as the new activity coordinator at the Bedford-Shelbyville Senior Center.

Studying at Hyles-Anderson College in Indiana, where she met her husband, Nellie said she didn’t know her exact path in life. “I didn’t know if I wanted to be a teacher or a church secretary,” she recalled. But she did know she wanted to have a family and support her husband as he embarked on becoming a preacher.

When her husband was led to become a senior pastor, Nellie recalled, “That was a transition for me because I tended to be shy, but a pastor’s wife can’t be shy. There are a lot of times you’re in the limelight and have to speak. But you get over yourself…because it’s not who I am and it’s not about me. So that was a good learning experience for me,” she said.

In addition to doing occasional secretarial work and working in schools, Nellie focused on raising her four children and serving as a “preacher’s wife.” It geared her toward the one thing most needed with her job: embracing people with her heart.

“I’m a big people person. I tend to embrace people with my heart and this is a place where I can help seniors reach their potential through their golden years,” Nellie said.

Safe, fun space

Though often overlooked, Nellie agrees the senior center is a crucial component of a community as it provides a safe space for seniors.

“We’re here for their needs. If it’s just talking, we’re willing to just talk, or if they need information for whatever, then we’re willing to help,” she said. Nellie is also bilingual, having grown up in a Spanish-English-speaking home, which is another resource she hopes to incorporate into the center.

Despite the challenges of filing monthly reports and clearly communicating with seniors, she says, “I thank the Lord that He’s led me here because I feel like it’s a God thing.”

The number one component of the center, according to Nellie, is for seniors to come to have fun. And second, “I think the fellowship they make here is important,” she said.

Not a “last-minute” person, Nellie said she is excited to work ahead to bring a full score of activities for the seniors, such as bingo, bridge, puzzles, crocheting, and card-making classes.

“Even if you don’t know how to do any of these things, just come and enjoy the time to be together,” she said. “Just pop in and say, ‘Hey, I’m here for a coffee.’ I love that.”

For now, Nellies is looking forward to embracing all the seniors who walk through the door, whether it’s five or 100. “I want them to be blessed when they walk in here,” she said.

The Shelbyville Senior Center is located at 111 J.G. Helton Drive, behind Central High School. They are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For questions about membership or volunteering, stop by the center or call 931-684-0019.

Upcoming events

  • The annual board meeting will be on July 11 after lunch at 11 a.m. Everyone is urged to attend and vote on new board members for the new year. Let the center know two days in advance if you are eating lunch.
  • All are invited to come and eat and shop on August 10 at the Bell Buckle Café. For those who need a ride, they will meet at the senior center at 10:30. Cost is $3 for a ride, and sign-ups will be available until August 3. Everyone will pay for their own meal. Stop by the center or call 684-0019.
  • If you are 60 years old or older, you may be eligible for SNAP assistance. The senior center will be holding a SNAP Day on September 25. If you need help paying for food, call the center at 684-0019 to set up an appointment.