10:27 AM

Partners in Service

Just as some believe “it takes a village” to raise a child, many at Shepherd Center believe, when it comes to serving patients and families, “it takes a community” – a community of diverse businesses and individuals helping the hospital support patients and families through an often life-changing experience.

While the community helps Shepherd Center in several ways, two of the most significant include the Perks Partners and Community Reintegration programs. Both play a pivotal role in boosting the spirit and morale of patients and their families, who often spend extended periods of time at Shepherd. And, for patients specifically, these programs often help further their road to independence.

Sometimes the smallest gesture has the biggest impact, especially when the gesture is a win-win for all involved. Such is the case with the Perks Partners Program, says Gale Eckstein, coordinator of Shepherd’s Family Support Services. Launched two years ago, the Perks Partners Program allows Shepherd patients, families and staff to receive discounts and/or special offers from participating Atlanta businesses near Shepherd in exchange for showing their Perks Program card (and employee ID, if applicable).

“Every little thing we do hopefully lightens the load for patients and families,” Gale says. “The Perks Partners Program not only helps them a little financially, but also offers them the comfort of knowing that Shepherd’s community partners will treat them with respect as they (patients) venture out into the community.”

Perks Partners participants include florists, dry cleaners, a hair salon and restaurants such as Another Broken Egg Café (2355 Peachtree Road, NE) owned by Dana and Mignon Percival. While gaining exposure and more foot traffic certainly attracted Mignon to the program, Shepherd’s mission is what really motivated her to offer people from Shepherd a 10 percent discount and to create a culture in which she and her employees go out of their way to make everyone from Shepherd feel comfortable.

“Hearing patients’ stories,” Mignon says, “made me think about how I would want a member of my own family to be treated if he or she experienced this kind of life-changing injury. If a small discount does anything to help patients, families or staff of Shepherd, We think that’s a great thing.”

Vimal Bhakta, franchise owner of Firehouse Subs (2221 Peachtree Road, NE) says he proudly participates in Shepherd’s Community Reintegration Program, which is critical to a patient’s ability to reintegrate back into his or her community. Once a spinal cord or brain injury patient has been deemed medically ready by his or her therapy team, he or she can begin going on community outings. Depending on the severity of injury and space available, a patient usually goes on one or two outings a week.

While community outings may be considered fun, they very much serve as part of a patient’s therapy program by providing patients with real-life scenarios to practice important skills they will need in their own communities. These skills may include maneuvering their wheelchair in a crowd, managing money, feeding themselves and dealing with accessibility issues. Kelly Edens, director of Shepherd Center’s Recreation Therapy Program, says she and other therapists purposefully do not call venues in advance of outings because they want patients to become more comfortable with obstacles they might face in real life.

“Many patients are here for a long time. They love the outings because they help prepare them for when they go home,” Kelly says. “When patients face something at home, they will feel more at ease about it.”

Accompanied by recreation therapists and, occasionally, family members, patients go anywhere an able-bodied person would go – to restaurants, movies, museums, shopping, the airport and other venues around Atlanta. Some popular places they have gone are World of Coke, the High Museum of Art, Turner Field (for a Braves game), the Georgia Aquarium and Firehouse Subs, one of the patients’ favorite restaurants.

Firehouse Subs has been helping Shepherd Center since Vimal (aka Mr. Vee) opened his franchise in 2006 – first by providing sub sandwich platters for the Shepherd Shoot-Out wheelchair basketball tournament and now by providing a welcome setting for patients’ community outings. Whether it’s opening a door, bringing patients menus or moving furniture around to make the restaurant more accessible, Mr. Vee and his staff go above and beyond to make Shepherd patients feel comfortable. But they also understand enough about the process by now to know when not to help.

“We’ve been inspired by Shepherd to go the distance and do what’s right,” Mr. Vee says. “We don’t want to hinder a patient by helping them, however, so we’ve learned when to back off. We feel vested in a patient’s success also and want them to become as independent as possible.”

With programs like Perks Partners and Community Reintegration and participants such as Firehouse Subs, Another Broken Egg Café and many others, Shepherd Center can rest assured that it indeed has a community fully vested in its success.

Below is a list of Shepherd Center’s Perk Partners:
2355 Peachtree Rd., N. E.
Atlanta 30305

DISCOUNT: Monday through Friday only, 10 percent off for patients, their family members, and employees

1901 Peachtree Rd. (Peachtree at Collier)
Atlanta 30309
SPECIAL OFFER:  Free original Chick-fil-A sandwich with the purchase of a meal for patients, their family members and employees at this location only.

2393 Peachtree Rd.
Atlanta 30305

DISCOUNT: 15 percent discount order, excluding delivery and outgoing wire service

1270 W. Peachtree St., 30309
DISCOUNT: 15 percent off. Not valid with other offers (must show Shepherd ID badge).
$5.99 Specials: 8-inch, 2-Topping Pizza and 1 soda OR Side Salad and 1 soda OR Lunch Pasta with breadsticks and 1 soda
$6.99 Special:  5 Jumbo Wings with French fries and 1 soda
$7.99 Specials: 8-inch Round Slice and beer of your choice OR 10 wings and 1 soda (fries and celery not included) OR 10-inch, 2-Topping Pizza and 1 soda

2290-A Peachtree Rd.
Atlanta 30309
DISCOUNT:  10 percent discount for patients, their family members and employees on orders of $35 or more

3667 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd.
Atlanta 30341

DISCOUNT:  20 percent off for patients, their family members and employees, excluding delivery charges

1923 Peachtree Rd.
Atlanta 30309

DISCOUNT:  20 percent off for patients (stylists can come to Shepherd, if needed); 15 percent off for family members of patients and Shepherd employees

2140 Peachtree Rd., Suite 290
Atlanta 30309

DISCOUNT:  10 percent off your order

1770 Peachtree St., 30309
DISCOUNT: 15 percent off for patients, their family members and employees. Not valid with other offers.

2915 Peachtree Rd.
Atlanta 30305

DISCOUNT: 15 percent off for patients, their family members and employees

3016 Piedmont Rd.
Atlanta 30305

DISCOUNT:  10 percent off dine-in orders from 2  to 9 p.m. for patients, their family members and employees

2391 Peachtree Road
Atlanta 30305

DISCOUNT:  10 percent off orders

2280 Peachtree Rd.
Atlanta 30309

DISCOUNT: 10 percent off for patients, their family members and employees. Not valid with other offers.

If you know a local business that is interested in becoming one of Shepherd Center’s Perks Partners, contact Gale Eckstein at 404-367-1351 or

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.