Kathy Craven counts her blessings and pays them forward.

Craven has been a dedicated volunteer of Waverly United Methodist Church for more than 30 years and has helped with every fundraiser and event in that time, in addition to lending her talents and time to the choir and Sunday School program.

Even though some medical issues set her back in recent years, Craven still found a way to stay involved with her church, like knitting and sewing items to be donated around the region.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping out and being part of my church. Of course now it’s also my way to keep my sanity,” she said with a laugh during a recent phone interview from the Clarks Summit home she shares with her husband, John, and daughter, Carrie. “Keeping busy helps to keep my mind active, but it’s also all that I’ve ever known.”

It was a while before Craven officially called Northeast Pennsylvania home. Craven’s parents, Christine Wanick and the late Gordon Thompson, met in Illinois while her father was in the Air Force, and the two raised their family while moving around the country. Craven grew up splitting her time between Santa Rosa, California, where her father grew up, and her mother’s home region in Pennsylvania.

After years of going back and forth, Craven settled down in NEPA around 1972. She took a job with MetLife, where she met her husband, and became a member of her mother’s family’s church, Waverly UMC. Craven immediately joined church activities and fundraisers, sang in the choir and taught Sunday School. When Craven retired in 1999, she had more time to dedicate to giving back, especially at the church, and she dove headfirst into helping out.

“It always felt like family to be around the church,” she said. “Everybody cares for everybody. … That’s what made it feel like home.”

Over the years, Craven could always be found at the church, lending a hand with whatever was going on there. She helped with fundraisers such as the church’s annual Labor Day bull roast or the Welsh cookie sale. Some of her fondest memories come from her times at the church with her fellow parishioners, whether in the kitchen creating meals for fundraisers or getting the space ready to host events.

Craven gave back in other ways, too, such as by preparing Thanksgiving meals for local food pantries or creating prayer shawls that were then donated to the Visiting Nurse Association Hospice at Community Medical Center.

Craven also feels blessed to be part of a community that supports the church. She recalled a time about a decade ago when Waverly UMC put out a call for material, yarn, buttons and stuffing to make dolls to sell at a craft show to benefit the church’s mission and outreach programs plus its general funds. Community members sent an overwhelming amount of material that Craven still is using up today to create hats and scarves for local organizations, including the Women’s Resource Center and Keystone Mission.

Her friends from church also were there for Craven and her family when times were tough. After Craven was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and underwent brain surgery, her pals stepped up in several ways, from sending meals to the family’s home to ensuring Craven had rides to doctor’s appointments. Their support blew her away.

“I can really rely on them,” Craven said. “They have been so helpful, and it helps so much to know there are people there for you and will do anything for you. That makes me feel good.”

Craven can’t dedicate the time she used to, but she still helps with what she can. A lifelong sewer who created clothing since she was a teenager, she put her talents to use for the church. During the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Craven anticipated a need for face coverings and masks, and she sprang into action to hand-sew masks for the community to help stop the virus’ spread.

“I had all the materials, and I started looking up patterns for them,” she said. “I have to relearn a lot of stuff, but to do things like this, it keeps me going.”

Craven’s dedication to serving others continues. After helping put together backpacks filled with items including homemade face masks and school supplies for the Women’s Resource Center, next on her list is starting on hats and scarves to donate to local charities during the colder months. As long as she can, Craven will never stop paying it forward. It helps to feed others’ spirits while she feeds her soul.

“I feel so fortunate to have so many blessings in my life,” she said. “I should share what I can. Everybody can help in some way, and everyone has their gifts to share.”