Family, friends and colleagues gathered last Sunday to honor Kenneth and Inez Shepard in a “Living Black History” tribute at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.
The Shepard’s have been community stalwarts in running Happy Time Childcare for nearly 50 years, making it one of the longest running community businesses on Mansfield’s north end of town. The daycare, which was a loving and warm place for residents to leave their children, closed its doors January 31.
In addition to nurturing children ages 18 months through 12-years-old, Inez created the Culliver Reading Center (CRC) in 1992, which was named after former Mansfield Mayor Donald Culliver. The after-school program helps children, in grades kindergarten through 12, with their homework.
“Throughout the generations she has helped keep hundreds of kids off the streets while providing a nurturing, caring environment,” said Don Bryant, Mansfield city councilman at-large and master of ceremonies.
Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker issued a proclamation in the Shepard’s honor. The proclamation was read by councilpersons, Garnetta Pender (sixth ward) and Butch Jefferson (fourth ward).
Jefferson said he has lived in the neighborhood of Bowman and Harker Streets for 50 years and has watch the business grow.
“At first I thought it was just a business but as the years went by (I noticed) it was not only a business but a service,” he said. “I noticed young people dropping their children off, that made me know they were working and that was a good thing. You kept it open so they had an opportunity to have someone they could trust with their children so they could go make a living. I appreciate that. Thank you.”
Yolanda Allen, a close family friend and organizer of the event, spoke on behalf of the family. She said even though she is not biologically related to the Shepard’s, they are like family on many levels.
“She watched our children and later I became a colleague of hers when working on some projects together, then later in life she has become my employer and calls me Mrs. Allen,” she said. “They are both like family to me.”
Demone Shoulders, board president of CRC, also thanked the Shepard’s for their service to the community.
“But (Inez) couldn’t have done it by herself,” he said. “Mr. Shepard is unassuming but wherever he was needed, he was there. If there was a job to be done, Mr. Shepard did it. If there was snow to be shoveled, he did it and if something needed fixed, he fixed it and we want to say, ‘Thank you.’”
Children who graduated from the daycare sang a song and gave Inez hugs before the couple took the mic to thank everyone for the honor of being recognized.
They said they were surprised with the honor. “Not only is it a surprise, but it is very humbling,” said Kenneth. “It’s humbling to know that you have such a family that we are blessed with but I would be remiss if I didn’t say, ‘If anything has been a success or any accomplishments that have been made, it’s all by the grace of God. So all honor and all glory be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has continued to bless us daily.”
The Shepard’s have represented education, economic development and social progress, Bryant said.
“We certainly thank God for their dedication, commitment and hard work to the community,” said the Rev. Derek Williams, pastor of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. “This is an auspicious occasion to honor the work and labor they have done.”