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Eighty-two-year-old Roy Keith may be retired, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t busy.
Keith provides support, companionship and assistance to those who are sick, facing surgery, homebound or just need a friendly smile.
“I’ve always been very energetic and enthusiastic,” the Elizabethtown resident said.
The chairman of deacons at Severns Valley Baptist Church, Keith makes visits to homes, nursing homes and hospitals. Those he visits are not necessarily sick or hospitalized, he said.
“People crave companionship when they get old, but they don’t want to be a bother,” Keith said.
Very few people call and ask him to visit.
Calling himself an encourager, Keith makes the visits with his wife, Susan, who often provides homemade food.
“They call him ‘meals on wheels,’” Susan joked.
“Some people accuse me of using her food as a bribe to get in the house,” Keith said, laughing.
One of Keith’s jobs at the church is to assign people to those who are homebound, he said.
Earlier this year his efforts were recognized by Debbie Evans, ministry assistant to the pastor of member care at their church. Evans nominated Keith for the Home Instead Salute to Senior Service Contest for his volunteer work.
“His Christian dedication is something I look to,” Evans said.
Not only does Keith make the visits, he is always willing to help within the church wherever he’s needed, Evans said.
“There’s nothing the man won’t try to accomplish,” Evans said.
Describing Keith as “understanding,” Evans noted he always has a smile on his face.
Though he taught Bible school for 40 years, it wasn’t until the past few years that Keith felt he’s been able to focus on his volunteer work.
When he was first deciding a career path, Keith considered going into law. His father told him there were already enough smart people in that business and persuaded Keith to work in the family’s monument business.
Though he doesn’t have a college degree, Keith feels he had a strong foundation in education that provided an important philosophy.
“A good education,” he said. “Teaches you to learn.”
After retiring in 1989, Keith spent some time travelling between Florida and Kentucky. Now that he doesn’t travel to Florida he’s been able to devote more time to visiting those who need him, particularly in about the past four years, he said.
Because he has Type I diabetes, Keith realizes he cannot commit to being active with organizations that meet regularly. His schedule is largely influenced by his health.
But volunteering to visit others is something he can do whenever he is able, he said, regardless if it’s for an anniversary, birthday or if someone just needs prayer.
“Everybody appreciates being remembered,” he said.
Susan credits her husband’s easy-going personality as an advantage in his role as encourager.
“Roy has never met a stranger,” she said.
To that end, Keith said the most important thing is to see yourself as you are in order to relate to others.
Keith becomes visibly moved when he speaks about those he has visited. He cited a case of a couple in the Celebrate Recovery program at the church who he was able to help “nourishing” them through faith.
In helping them, he said, he also recognized how blessed he and his wife are.
That realization is perhaps one of the greatest rewards Keith gets from his volunteer visits.
“Sometimes when I leave, I’m getting a whole lot more than I’ve given,” he said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A VISIT WITH ROY KEITH:
City of birth: Hodgenville
City of residence: Elizabethtown
Favorite music: Classical, without vocals
Favorite movie: “Any made before 1960.”
Favorite TV: Kentucky Educational Television and news programming
Hobbies: Bridge, reading historical nonfiction