A VOLUNTEER IN all of life’s seasons, Shelbyville’s Kay Bartley has lived a life of service. From her early days of marriage to the present, Bartley has covered a lot of ground. She has sown many seeds.
During college, Bartley met her husband, Randall (“Bart”), while a captain in the United States Army based in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. The couple lived in many areas throughout Bart’s military career, including South Korea. When he retired, they returned to Kay’s hometown and started their family.
Motherhood, as it often does, provided countless service opportunities. Involved with their children, Erin and Evan, the stay-at-home mom kept busy. Kay volunteered with 4-H and served as youth coordinator for the Tennessee Hereford Association. At our library, she helped with the summer reading program and storytime.
Throughout her life, Kay has served on the Friends of the Library Board and worked with the Middle Tennessee Spay & Neuter Clinic in its early formation. She continues to volunteer in her home church, First United Methodist Church. But two compassionate programs left their marks on Kay’s heart and compel her today to continue her service.
Operation Baby Lift, a military action at the close of the Vietnam War, airlifted Vietnamese children to safety in US installations. The orphans were eventually placed into foster care and adoption. In the spring of 1975, Kay assisted the program at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in an elementary school turned temporary orphanage. The children were never left alone, and Kay worked with others in 12-hour shifts feeding, comforting, and playing with them.
During Bart’s last duty assignment at the Pentagon, the couple’s church, located in Springfield, Virginia, worked in groups with Martha’s Table. Martha’s Table ministered through a soup kitchen to those in need on the streets of Washington, D.C. An old ice cream truck loaded with soup, sandwiches, and volunteers made various stops to offer food and personal care to those in need. “I was a ‘hop-off-the-truck’ type that circulated among the gathered crowds, much to Bart’s chagrin, but it fed my soul,” said Kay.
That experience served Kay well when the local Ministerial Association agreed to try a six-week soup kitchen program in 2016. Kay jumped in, motivated by her Washington experience and the heart to help the hungry in our area. The six-week program is now in its sixth year, and Kay’s enthusiasm for it has only grown.
The volunteer seed was planted early in Kay’s life, but others continually inspire her. “People dedicated to their cause and following it with passion – and those who give so much more than I ever will or can – inspire me. And the ones whose goodness reeks so heavily it can be felt, but who quietly, anonymously work behind the scenes – these are the things that inspire me,” Kay said.
Like self-sowing flowers, one act of kindness blesses more than the receiver. It goes on to ignite more deeds, multiplying both the number of givers and receivers.
Kay’s garden blooms year-round. -GN