Father and Sons Explain Their Longtime Support of Shepherd Center
When Shepherd Center co-founder Alana Shepherd asked Fred Alias to have lunch with her at the hospital 30 years ago, he had a preconceived idea that it would be a “depressing place” given the patients’ circumstances.
Instead, he had the opposite experience.
“After I got in my car, I just felt exhilarated and positive,” recalls Fred, who has spent his entire career in the hotel business and is now CEO of Sandcastle Resorts. “To see the interaction with the patients and the staff was phenomenal. I saw more ‘high fives’ that day than I’d see at a Falcons game.”
He calls that lunch “inspirational” and has been supporting Shepherd Center – both financially and by serving on the Board of Directors – ever since.
In 2006, Fred established the “Employee Attitude Award” given to four Shepherd Center employees each year. The recipients are voted upon by their peers and receive a monetary gift. “Every employee at Shepherd has a great attitude, and I wanted to recognize that,” Fred says.
Growing up, Shepherd Center was a “household name” to Fred’s sons, Shaler and Andrew. But Shaler did not see Shepherd Center in action until his best friend from college sustained a spinal cord injury in a fall off a roof the night before graduation.
“That’s when I truly understood what Shepherd does,” Shaler recalls. “I saw every step of the process, from admission to therapy to discharge. I learned what a great place it really is.”
As Shaler and Andrew established their careers – both work for an Atlanta company called Repay – they also began to support Shepherd Center. Aside from contributing financially, Shaler sits on the Shepherd Center Cup committee for the Shepherd Center Foundation’s annual golf tournament, chairing it once, and Andrew is on the hospital’s steering committee and advisory board.
“When you get involved at Shepherd, you get pulled into the thick of things because of the energy there,” Andrew says. “There’s no way to stay on the sidelines.”
Shaler agrees. “Every time I walk out of Shepherd, I feel energized, and I want to be a part of it,” he explains.
Fred and his sons have most recently made substantial contributions toward the renovation of Shepherd Center’s chapel, a project that is under way now.
“We were looking for a way to honor Alana and Harold’s unwavering commitment to the Center,” Fred says. “Knowing their faith was important to them, the chapel was a perfect fit.”
“God works miracles through Shepherd Center, and renovating the chapel is way to honor that,” Andrew adds.
A quiet room – where patients and their families can meet with the chaplain away from their hospital room – is being added, and upgrades are being made to the chaplains’ offices and the chapel itself. The renovation includes the addition of antique pews and the relocation of a stained glass window.
Fred Alias calls his support of Shepherd Center a passion – and an easy one at that. “I feel it’s an honor and a privilege to help them,” he says. “It’s a very special place.”
Written by Sara Baxter
Photos by Louie Favorite
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.