“I live by my day planner,” she said as she pulled it out of its case, showing how she already had commitments lined up for September.
The Cleveland resident moved to the city in 1999 from Chattanooga, where she first moved after leaving her home state of Nebraska. It wasn’t very long before she found ways to help out around the community.
When she is not working, she said she spends most of her spare time volunteering with Family Promise of Bradley County, AARP’s Safe Driving program and her place of worship, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.
Whittle said for a long time she has worked as a caretaker, moving in with older women who need help with day-to-day things. She currently lives with and assists a 94-year-old woman with household tasks.
Though she said she enjoys her occupation, Whittle admitted that both job and housing stability can be unpredictable. For example, she has needed to move when past clients have had to move into nursing homes to receive more constant care.
“That’s why I found out what it’s like to be homeless,” she said. “You not only lose a job, but you lose your home as well.”
That is also why she empathizes with the homeless individuals Family Promise helps. Whittle is currently chair of fundraising on the board of directors for the organization, and she said she could only imagine what it was like for a family to deal with an uncertain housing situation.
Though she has no spouse or children of her own, she said she spends time working with the organization because she wants children to be able to grow up with the stability of having a home.
As a volunteer with the AARP’s Safe Driving program, she serves as an instructor and a zone coordinator, supervising six other instructors who teach the classes. The program consists of classes designed to teach people safe driving skills in a classroom setting. While it does not involve actual driving, she said it helps people learn and re-learn driving skills.
She said she has actually run into former students who told her how they had avoided car accidents while using some of what they had learned in the class.
“I enjoy trying to keep the roads safe for everybody,” Whittle said.
The classes are offered to people of all ages, but she said some of the focus is placed on driving safety as one ages. In addition, she said some insurance companies may offer discounts to those over the age of 50 who complete the course.
Whittle also volunteers with her church, doing everything from putting together bulletins to answering phones.
In addition to volunteering, she said she enjoys reading murder mystery novels like the ones by author James Patterson. She also said she enjoyed crafting “prayer bowls,” decorative bowls covered in fabric. When she gives one away or sells one to help with a fundraiser, she tells people to place slips of paper with prayer needs written on them into the bowl. Every so often, she encourages them to empty the bowl so they can count how many of the prayers may have been answered.
At the age of 63, Whittle said she had no intention of slowing down her busy lifestyle or taking a break from counting answered prayers anytime soon.
“I’ve got a few grey hairs, and I’m proud of every one of them,” she said with a laugh. “I just love life and all the blessings God gives me.”