When retired fourth-grade teacher Faye Chitwood moved to Elizabethtown, she didn’t just sit in her house and enjoy the wooded view around her home. She got busy volunteering.
She lived in northeast Missouri until about three years ago when her husband died.
Her son, Mark, built her a home in an area not far from his house.
“I couldn’t just sit here and do nothing,” she said of seeking places to volunteer.
She started her volunteer work with Hosparus. Her husband was in Hosparus care for six months before he died and she said Hosparus was good to them.
“That’s one way I can pay back,” she said.
She started working in the thrift shop sorting items in the back. Then she helped set up Hosparus’ newest store in Campbellsville.
Her arthritis started bothering her, causing her to stop work at the thrift shop, but that did not stop her volunteering.
Chitwood, 78, started making teddy bears to give to children in Hosparus and fidget mats for Alzheimer’s patients.
She makes 10 bears a month and with the next bunch she will have made a total of 105. She has made eight fidget mats.
Hosparus Health Thrift Shoppe manager Moira Taylor met Chitwood shortly after she moved to the area. Taylor said Chitwood processed and hung donated clothes to sell in the store but also has found other way to help the organization.
“She uses her amazing crafting skills and makes ‘Sweet Bears’ for Hosparus Health patients and their families, especially the children and grandchildren of patients,” Taylor said. “Faye was one of a handful of volunteers who drove from Elizabethtown to Campbellsville to assist in setting up the new Campbellsville Thrift Shoppe in the fall of 2017.”
Taylor remembers Chitwood saying she didn’t even know where Campbellsville was because she was new to the area.
“But she would be happy to come down and help out,” Taylor said. “That willingness to go wherever she was needed told me what a special heart of a volunteer she has.”
Taylor also gained a special connection with Chitwood when she heard of her love of bluegrass music.
“She has attended the bluegrass festival in Rough River that benefits Hosparus Health,” Taylor said. “As a fan of bluegrass music myself, I loved the day I discovered she also works as a tour guide at the Bill Monroe Birthplace.”
It was at that bluegrass festival that Hosparus officials also first learned about Chitwood’s bears. She operated a booth during the festival and was making her bears while she was there.
Even when she lived in Missouri, Chitwood said she was a fan of the music genre. She drives to Monroe’s home place once a week to volunteer as a tour guide.
The list of places Chitwood volunteers is lengthy.
Once a week she calls bingo at Robinbrooke Senior Living. She also brings food to Wesley Hilltop House events and plays cards there once a week.
She goes on mission trips to the Cherokee nation in Oklahoma each October with a group from Missouri. She often drives the 12-hour route and cooks for the group.
Her son Mark said one time she made large, odd-sized curtains for the Wentworth Military Academy Museum in Lexington, Missouri.
“Mom has always prioritized the welfare of others over herself,” he said. “Her moving here and continuing to live life to its fullest has taught me that you don’t have to start dying until you stop living.”
He said she also spends time teaching her granddaughters how to cook and sew.
“The God-inspired joys in life are relationships, experiences and giving; the most significant of which come with no price tag or expectation of repayment,” he said.
When she’s not volunteering, Chitwood loves to cook, goes on adventures to find new things in her new home state and meets new people.
“Kentucky has a lot of wonderful people,” she said.
It’s important, she said, to go out and do things in retirement.
“Get out and enjoy life,” she said. “There’s a lot to do and everybody has a story and it’s good to hear it.”