WILLIAMSTOWN - At the age of 80, longtime Williamstown resident Karen Fenton remains active helping her family, friends and the community in any way she can.
Fenton was recently nominated for recognition in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel's Gems of the Valley series, seeking to recognize those in the community to give support and assistance in a variety of ways.
Fenton said learning of her nomination as a Gem of the Valley humbled her.
Photo by Wayne Towner
Karen Fenton, 80, of Williamstown, has been recognized as a “Gem of the Valley.” She is active in the Williamstown-Marietta community, especially with the Williamstown Food Pantry, a program of the Williamstown Welfare League.
"I guess I don't consider myself a 'gem,'" Fenton said. "I feel like the things I do, I do because the ability to do them has been given to me. They're a God-given thing. I think you always need to pay back to your community and to your friends and to your family in any way that you can," she said.
Williamstown resident Melanie See, a longtime friend of Fenton's, nominated her as a "Gem of the Valley" because of her long involvement in the community. See said she thought of Fenton immediately upon learning of the recognition due to Fenton's years of involvement in the community.
"Since I've known Karen, since 1971, she has always been busy, she's always worked for the community," See said.
"She's just a good person to know. If anyone needs anything, she tries to find it for them."
Fenton was born in Wood County and spent her childhood in Parkersburg before moving at age 12 to Williamstown where she has lived for the past 68 years.
Fenton graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing. Over the years, she worked as a nurse at several local physicians' offices, as a school nurse in the Warren Local School District and was in charge of the outpatient mental health unit at Worthington Center for several years.
"I finished my paid career teaching at WVU-P (West Virginia University at Parkersburg)," she said.
Fenton raised five children and has numerous grandchildren, including her first great-grandchild expected in November.
In previous years, she participated in Junior Womens Club in Williamstown. Her church activities include singing in the choir at First United Methodist Church in Williamstown where she has been a member since childhood. She also directs the church's handbell choir and participates in the Sara Circle, part of the United Methodist Women group She also gives her time to the church's annual yard sale and chicken pie dinner, among other activities.
Fenton said she has always been interested in volunteering in a variety of ways. She has been active with the American Red Cross and helped initiate the first pre-natal classes at Marietta Memorial Hospital when she was pregnant with her first child more than 50 years ago.
She volunteers at Marietta Memorial Hospital one morning each week and also attends two exercise classes at the hospital every week. As a 16-year breast cancer survivor who has lost loved ones to the disease, Fenton said she also remains active in the Williamstown Relay for Life in the fight against cancer.
She is known for visiting shut-ins, serving communion to the residents of a nursing home in Marietta and is quick to offer assistance to friend and family in need of a hand.
Most of her volunteer time is given to the Williamstown Food Pantry, a program of the Williamstown Welfare League, for which Fenton previously volunteered as treasurer. For the food pantry, Fenton creates schedules, arranges for food dropoffs and collections, organizes volunteers to help keep the pantry stocked and organized and prepares for the giveways held each month.
The pantry - which also is available on an emergency basis - serves the Williamstown School District, which is larger than it appears reaching north as far as the Pleasants County line, east to Deerwalk and south to Boaz, she said.
"I have teams of people who are absolutely wonderful volunteers. All I have to do is call and say 'I'm getting a load of food in, will you come over and help me put it away' and they are here," she said of the work on the food pantry.
A member of the Red Hat Society for years, Fenton also is part of the Williamstown Lunch Bunch, an informal group of women who monthly meet for lunch at places around the Mid-Ohio Valley. It was started many years ago by a group of ladies who wanted to celebrate their birthdays, she said.
Those women are deceased, but new women continued to join the bunch over the years and it remains active.
"It's open to anybody who wants to join us for lunch," she said.
Fenton said the social aspect of the lunch bunch and other activities is important.
"As you grow older, that is so important, to have those social contacts in your life," she said.
"It keeps you going physically, it keeps you going mentally and socially. You've got to have these contacts," Fenton said.
Editor's Note: Gems of the Valley is a regular feature of the The Marietta Times highlighting residents who do wonderful things for the community. Nominations can be sent to 700 Channel Lane, Marietta, Ohio, 45750 or emailed to News Editor Kate York at firstname.lastname@example.org.