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A Foundation for Phelps County Based in Rolla, the Phelps County Community Foundation is the CFO’s 55th regional affiliate. Learn More
CFO Stories

Carolynn Chittim: A Friend to Felines in Life & Death

A Bequest from “a Big Heart”

Carolynn Chittim’s neighbors were accustomed to her trapping feral cats to spay or neuter them, as well as feeding and caring for unhomed animals near her central Springfield home. In her retirement, she continued the nurturing instincts drawn from her 45-year career as a nurse-anesthesiologist in the Mercy health system.

“For every two cats, she might catch a possum or skunk,” says her brother, Rev. Clayton Chittim, of Blue Springs, who, along with his wife, Mary, took in Carolynn’s surviving pets.

Chittim’s next-door neighbor in her Rountree neighborhood was Tea Bar & Bites owner Colleen Smith. She recalled various stray cats the café shared with Carolyn, including longtime resident Mr. Happy, who once made a bride’s day when he appeared as if on cue at her wedding on the café’s patio. They coordinated spay-neuters, caring and adoptions together.

“She was such a generous person — such a big heart,” Smith says.

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Sue Davis, Executive Director of Humane Society of Southwest Missouri, cuddles a kitten in the shelter’s current cat area.

When Carolynn first learned she had cancer several years before her death in 2017, she worked with her attorney to plan her estate around supporting a no-kill shelter for cats. The lifelong Rountree neighborhood resident left a large estate gift to the CFO, benefitting the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri to enrich and expand the shelter’s no-kill mission to help unhomed cats in the community.

“It is a generous and unique gift,” says Sue Davis, Executive Director of the Humane Society. “This is a significant donation that we do not see every day and we couldn’t be more grateful to Carolynn. We’re very excited about the project and honored to perpetuate her legacy of caring for cats.”

Davis is working with architects at Marshall Waters Woody on a two-phase design expected to begin in spring 2020. The existing cat area will be renovated and a new area will be added onto the current space. The new area will feature both “condos,” individual living spaces, and “suites,” where multiple cats can live together in a more open area with ledges, landings and loft spaces that cats enjoy.

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Carolynn Chittim left an estate gift to the Humane Society to dramatically improve the shelter’s area for unhomed cats.

A no-kill shelter since 2016, the Humane Society’s objective is for animals to be rehabilitated and adopted into loving homes as quickly as possible. Sadly, some animals are there longer as they wait for “forever” homes, from a few weeks to months, depending on how adoptable the animals are due to age, health and behavior. The Humane Society provides a variety of health-care, adoption, education and fostering services funded solely by donations, adoption fees, retail sales and grants with no governmental tax support or affiliation with any large national animal-welfare organizations.

“Springfield has a lot of competition for the philanthropic dollar and animals are typically not thought of first,” Davis says. “If they are, it’s usually dogs first and then, hopefully, cats. Kudos to Carolynn for having it in her heart to take care of the underdog, so to speak.”

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