Redefining Retirement: Judith GrandPre’ Smith Shares Comfort

Redefining Retirement

Judith GrandPre’ Smith has many gifts and talents. She is an artist, a writer, and a teacher. It is her belief that there is “Always a way to help others”; that defines who she is and all of her actions.

After a 42-year career as a special education teacher with the Chicago Public Schools, Judith joined the Cares Mentoring Program at her former high school, John Marshall Harlan Community Academy. She draws from her teaching experience and continues to impart wisdom that may be found in her poetry book,” Don’t Fight, Forgive,’’ an anti-violence poetry book with morals and messages for parents, teachers, and children.

In the spirit of providing support and encouragement, during Judith’s retirement journey, she began creating Comfort Baskets.  Judith puts her love for crafting and the arts by creating custom-made baskets for people who are experiencing challenges, a loss, or for a celebratory occasion. She has donated numerous custom baskets to American Legion veterans, Chicago Public School students and staff and members of her church. She says, “Making baskets gives me a sense of purpose and meaning.”

Baskets come in many sizes and shapes and are custom made with the recipient in mind. Judith sews fabric onto straw baskets, lines them with felt, adorns the rim with buttons, beads, or shells, and wraps them with colorful netting and ribbon. Filled with items that provide comfort and joy — a basket might include note pads, towels, toiletry items, candy, encouraging messages, guest soap, small pictures, playing cards or key chains. Following the success of donating baskets, Judith started selling them. Clients find her through referrals or email at Judith says, “Baskets are Better than flowers because they last longer. You won’t remember flowers but you will remember a basket that was made especially for you.”

 Judith wants others to know, “You never retire from learning or giving and there is always someone who needs you. If you are helping others, you are helping yourself.”

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