Like many people, we drove by nursing homes nearly every day and gave no thought to the people within. We were blind- maybe because of our own busy lives, or our youth-centered culture, or our unwillingness to consider what might be beyond those doors.
When Todd's mother first entered a long-term care home, our eyes were opened to the great need within. When we visited her, there were countless residents who called out to us, eager to say hello. We began to stop and chat with several residents we encountered in the lobby or in the hallways. Soon, we started gathering our new friends in the lobby in one big group so we could visit with them all at once. Sometimes we stayed and went to the dining room with them for dinner, sitting with our friends and helping staff as we were able.
The more we visited, the more we realized that there were so many residents who were lonely and in need of companionship. We also saw that most residents were impoverished and often had need of new socks, shoes, clothes, toiletries and other basic needs that we just thought were always taken care of by the facility or by family members. When we learned that 60-80% of nursing home residents never receive a single visitor, we knew we could not meet their needs alone.
With the support of our pastors, we launched a new ministry of our church and adopted the nursing home in which Todd's mother lived.
God was faithful to bring along just the right people at just the right time. Before the pandemic, you could find us at the nursing home every Sunday afternoon, offering Sunday school, singing hymns, praying with residents, visiting with residents, and helping residents and staff any way we could. It wasn't long before we thought, "why aren't more churches doing this?" And then we started to get questions like, "Do you go to other nursing homes too? My dad's nursing home really needs this."
It is our belief that many churches have mistakenly focused their pro-life efforts on what would be better called "pro-birth" ministries. We want to encourage churches to adopt a truly pro-life ethic, one which supports life from the womb to natural death.
We also know that nursing homes can be scary or intimidating. People often don't know what to do or say in a nursing home. That's why we named our ministry Faithful Friends. Because all you have to do is be a friend! And anyone can be a friend! With friendship as the starting point, we also want to equip you with resources, materials, plans, and ideas to help you be a friend to one....one resident, one unit, one long-term care community.
As you build friendships with residents, you have the opportunity to point them to the One True Friend- Jesus Christ. For residents who are already believers, they need the constant reminder of the hope of the Gospel as they face loneliness and declining health. For residents who are not believers, they are just steps away from entering eternity and they need to know Jesus.
Todd Carter has had a love for the elderly from a very young age. He earned a BS in health care administration from Western Kentucky University which focused on the elderly and aging population, and while there, he worked in WKU’s adult day care program. As part of his senior thesis, he worked for River Valley Behavioral Health researching depression in long-term care facilities. Todd also worked with a team at Rivendell Behavioral Health Services of Kentucky to create an Adult Day program.
Additionally, Todd’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to start several businesses throughout the years, one of which was a diabetic shoe distributorship that partnered with independent pharmacies to provide primarily elderly diabetic patients with therapeutic shoes, socks, and hosiery. Today, Todd is combining his love for the elderly with his business prowess to serve as the CEO of Faithful Friends Kentucky. Todd and Marla are members of Pleasant Valley Community Church.
With a degree in elementary education from Western Kentucky University, Marla Carter never expected to be working with the elderly. When her mother-in-law went to live in a nursing home, Marla was shocked and saddened to see how many residents were lonely and without visitors. Since 2018, Marla has dedicated nearly all of her free time to improving the quality of life for folks in long-term care. She and Todd both serve as consumer members of the GRADD Ombudsman Advisory Council. Additionally, Marla has endeavored to educate the community about issues relating to long-term care, particularly striving to raise awareness of the isolation that nursing home residents endured during Covid-19. For Christmas 2020, Marla organized the Hugs for the Holidays pink bow campaign in Kentucky, which called on communities to display a pink bow on their homes or businesses to show support for nursing home residents and their families who were separated during the holidays. (https://gradd.com/hugs-for-the-holidays/)
After taking care of my father in my home before he passed away, my heart became sensitive to the needs of the elderly and especially those in nursing homes. One Sunday during the Lord’s Supper, I felt the Lord call me to visit Owensboro Center Nursing Home on a Sunday afternoon with Marla & Todd Carter. It was a joyful experience to visit the residents one by one and see the happy expression come across their face when I would speak with them. By the end of my two hour visitation, my heart felt called to serve the Lord at this nursing home. Soon, the activity director shared with us that the residents were always requesting a minister to offer them a church service at their facility. Before long, Marla, a couple of other people from our church, and I had put together a Sunday School Class with Gospel singing time. The residents loved this time. Soon, we were averaging between 20 to 25 residents for Sunday School on Sunday afternoons. It was through this experience with Marla & Todd Carter that Faithful Friends Kentucky was birthed.
Cathy and her husband Steve are members of New Life Church.
Sarah worked as a labor and delivery nurse until staying home to raise her children. As several of her loved ones have aged, she has helped with caregiving responsibilities, often putting her nursing knowledge to good use. Sarah has witnessed the differences between aging in place and living in a nursing home, and she grew more concerned for our nation's elderly during the Covid nursing home lockdowns. Sarah's determination to see increased quality of care plus her healthcare experience have made her a valuable asset to our board. Sarah and her husband Jordan are members of Pleasant Valley Community Church.
Matt Bristow has been married to his wife, Caitlyn, for twelve years and they have four kids. Matt works in Sales & Marketing for Asmark Institute but spends much of his free time in the world of music. Matt was a trumpet player for Daviess County High School where he was a regular All District member, section leader, and Drum Major. He performed with the DCHS Marching Band, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, & Jazz Band - and played a leading role in the musical "Bye Bye Birdie."
After high school Matt went on to the Campbellsville University School of Music where he performed with the CU Marching Band, Concert Band, Jazz Band, Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, Brass Ensemble, Brass Quintet, and sang tenor in the CU Chorale.
In 2008 & 2010 Matt was a trumpet player for the two-time World Champion drum & bugle corps, the Madison Scouts, making Drum Corps International's (DCI's) World Championship finals both years - he went on to teach the Scouts in 2011 also finishing as a finalist at World Championships.
Since 2010 Matt has been playing keyboard and singing in Pleasant Valley Community Church's (PVCC's) worship band. In his free time he teaches music at Daviess County for their marching band and their Indoor Winds group that competes in Winter Guard International's (WGI's) World Championships; finishing in the top 3 every year since 2018 and winning the gold medal in 2019 & 2020.
"I love what Faithful Friends is doing and so much of their mission is deeply needed. I look forward to being a part of that mission, especially in how they are looking to incorporate music into their care."