Sally Kimel-Sheppard was born and raised in North Carolina, graduating from Fred T. Ford High School in Newton, NC. She attended Appalachian State University, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. Sally came to Athens and did an internship for a summer working for District Attorney’s offices in Banks, Jackson and Barrow Counties, and soon after was hired by the Barrow County DA’s office as a Victim Witness Coordinator. Sally went on to attend UGA to earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work. After interning at Department of Family & Child Services and the Department of Juvenile Justice, she decided to go the nonprofit route and got a job at The Tree House Children’s Advocacy Center, becoming a Forensic Interviewer in child abuse cases. While there she did 800+ interviews and helped start the Piedmont Rape Crisis Center. In 2007 she became the Executive Director at the Sexual Assault Center of Northeast Georgia in Athens, where she helped resurrect the organization after it nearly closed its doors. In 2009 the organization changed its name to The Cottage, Sexual Assault Center & Children’s Advocacy Center. Sally has served on the state board of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia and works as an Adjunct Professor at the UGA School of Social Work. She lives in the Beechwood Neighborhood in Athens with her children Brooke and Asher, and their rescue Pomeranian, Pico.
What is your favorite part of your career?
It used to be being a part of the criminal justice process testifying in court and having a guilty verdict, knowing someone was being held accountable for what they did. Now, it is more of the leadership piece; I love it when my staff is really doing an amazing job and they are happy about it. When I hear laughter in the hallways and know that they are responding appropriately in the best way possible to our clients, that is the part that makes me the happiest; or when I know I am really doing something impactful.
What is your favorite thing to do in Athens?
Well, there is pre Co-vid and post Co-vid. Pre Co-vid it is listening to live music; like finding out from friends that some band is playing somewhere and wandering up in there with a small audience. I am kind of growing out of The Georgia Theatre crowd and growing more into The Foundry crowd honestly, but just the music and the good food and all of that. Now, though, it is bike riding. I rode my bike around Saturday and Sunday all over UGA’s campus. You can just ride all over the places you are not supposed to be. You don’t have to dodge anybody. Really, I’m thinking about my kids and I riding through Five Points neighborhoods and stuff like that because nobody is around. That is one of the best parts about this is you can ride your bike anywhere. It is like bike heaven in Athens right now.
If you could see any band, anywhere, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
It would be Bob Marley at Red Rocks.
If you could give advice to your younger self, what advice would you give?
So much. When you get confused, know that you always know the answer inside. You just have to stop and listen.
Do you have a favorite book or a book you find yourself reading or referencing a lot or giving as a gift most often?
Anything Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra. Those are things I read and reread. Sometimes I find a good fiction book, but I more want to read to know something.
What are you doing to stay grounded during this time?
Deepak and Oprah put out an app and they are doing free meditation right now. That is one of the consistent things I have added since this Covid mess is meditating with them every morning. I think it is helpful. There is so much good free stuff right now: free yoga classes I am taking, and I am doing a free fifteen minute crazy workout class.
Do you have a favorite movie, or do you remember the first movie you saw in a theatre?
I think the first movie was probably Star Wars that I can remember. My favorite movie is always Natural Born Killers. I just love that movie. The music is amazing, and I love the actors. It is just so dark.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now and there was no virus, where would you go and why?
I really miss the Carribean. I was supposed to leave Sunday to go to Aruba. We rescheduled it for October, and I am hoping I get there then. I just miss clear water. I miss snorkeling, and just being lazy on a hammock on the beach. That is the only time I am really not on call.
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know?
Maybe that I have quite a few tattoos? Some you can see, but like I just got a very colorful octopus that is half of my back so most people don’t know it’s there. Otherwise, I am kind of an open book. I don’t think there is much most people don’t know about me.
If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
I think it would be my grandfather because he died when I was young. I feel like I am a lot like him. He is very charismatic and kind of sneaky, but yet was just a beautiful sunshiny person. I would like to get to know him better. It would be somewhere delicious that I cannot go to right now, like Last Resort or some place I can’t eat right now and miss.
What are three words or phrases that come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
Comfort, security and relaxation.