Kindred Spirts: Lancaster mother-daughter volunteers work to help community
Carolyn Whittaker, front, and her daughter, Jenny Lynn Whittaker, manage the clothing closet and food pantry at the Garrard County Cooperative Parish ¿ Family Ministry Center in Lancaster. (Kendra Peek / December 24, 2012)
Among the long list of organizations they have worked for and with over the years, the latest task for the mother-daughter duo of Carolyn and Jenny Lynn is to manage the Garrard County Cooperative Parish — Family Ministry Center, a food pantry and clothing closet sponsored by community churches.
This is after a lifetime of volunteer work for Carolyn, who, according to her daughter, “volunteers for everything.”
“I’m a fundraiser; it’s just in my nature,” Carolyn said.
She retired from Whitaker Bank in 1992 after about 27 years and began volunteering with the organization. For many years, she was involved in the local AARP, Habitat for Humanity, and housing board, which she has remained a part of, as well as other organizations in Garrard County, all because of a desire to help others.
“Some people say I’m stupid,” she said laughing, adding that many told her she should be resting, not working. “I really didn’t aim to go back to work full-time at 80 years old.”
The Garrard County Cooperative Parish — Family Ministry Center was started in the late ‘80s through the combination efforts of four Christian churches. In 1998, they built the original clothing closet and in 2007 received a grant for a new building, breaking ground in 2010.
Carolyn believes in giving credit where it is due and stressed there were people heavily involved in the early stages, before she came on board, especially Beverly Miller, Ben and Nina Poage and Gladys Nave. Nave was never able to visit the new building after it was completed, due to health reasons, despite her years of working to secure funding.
However, it was 2009 when Carolyn, who was already working with the Garrard County Cooperative Parish — Family Ministry Center, became chairwoman of the board.
Jenny Lynn, who works as a Realtor by trade, helps her mother out, because “she volunteered me,” Jenny Lynn said laughing.
Jenny Lynn “helped us move in, and she’s been here ever since,” Carolyn said.
The younger Whittaker recalled how her parents always were willing to help people, which instilled in her the same desire to help others.
“We just try to help people,” Jenny Lynn said.
Her father, Dariel, worked in the Garrard County Sheriff’s Office for 16 years, four of those as sheriff and 12 as a deputy. This also had an influence on her, as she said she practically grew up in the courthouse, first while he began working there and later when she worked there as a court reporter.
Becoming a Realtor is a post-retirement job for Jenny Lynn. She is a retired state worker and a deacon and treasurer of Lancaster Christian Church.
However, despite their involvement, Carolyn and Jenny Lynn seem content to remain in the background, letting others be seen. Even getting the women to talk about themselves was no easy task.
During her years volunteering with the Garrard County Cooperative Parish — Family Ministry Center, Carolyn said she has seen increases in those seeking help. Those needs are what she says keep her coming back day after day, to help her neighbors the best she can.
“We have an awfully big business,” Jenny Lynn said. They are also constantly meeting new customers, people who didn’t know the opportunity was there.
The Garrard County Cooperative Parish — Family Ministry Center relies on the support of the community, specifically churches. There is one paid staff member, but otherwise, the entire operation is run by volunteers.
“We’ve had a couple of good volunteers here,” Carolyn said.
They accept donations, clothing or monetary. The ministry operates under a board consisting of others in the community.
Fridays are referred to as “bag days” where people can purchase a bag and stuff it with as many clothes and household items as possible. Most items within the Garrard County Cooperative Parish — Family Ministry Center are given away; however, some are sold at a minimal cost. The money is used to help cover costs for food pantry items.
“Last month, we spent over $500 at the grocery, besides what people brought in,” Carolyn said.
Many of the goods also are donated to other organizations and needs. Jenny Lynn explained that they sent clothing to West Liberty following the tornado.
Anyone in the surrounding area is invited to visit, and the Whittakers say they have met individuals from other counties while working, including Madison, Lincoln and Boyle counties.
However, primarily, the Garrard County Cooperative Parish — Family Ministry Center is there “to try to help the people of Garrard County,” Jenny Lynn said. That is why the food pantry, which also is operated out of the ministry center, benefits only Garrard County residents. Once a month, recipients can obtain items from the food pantry.
The ministry center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. People wishing to donate items may do so during regular hours or call (859) 792-3300 to let the Whittakers know when the donation is to be delivered, in order to keep it safe from the elements.