This category in the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards recognizes individuals who have contributed significant volunteer time, energy, and/or resources to help an agency’s constituents.
Ellen Wolfe and Copland
Volunteers at Abe’s Garden
When Ellen Wolfe walks into Abe’s Garden with her dog Copland, the residents of the memory-care facility are transported to another time in their lives. Suddenly they remember their own pets through the years — their names, their markings, their funny habits. Their day instantly gets brighter.
“They never cease to amaze me with their stories of pets from their past and how gentle they are with Copland,” Wolfe says.
Susan Burdorf, Volunteer Coordinator for Abe’s Garden, says a visit from Wolfe and Copland can be transformative for residents in that moment: Those who are quiet and reserved come to life around the dog, while others who may have been struggling with frustration feel more calm.
“As dementia and memory loss progresses, little is remembered, but the sight of Copland brings out thoughts and reminders of dogs and other pets in their past,” Burdorf says. “This is so important for those who every day lose a little bit more of themselves.”
Volunteers for Legal Aid Society of Middle TN and the Cumberlands
Dealing with the stress that accompanies legal proceedings is difficult enough, but for marginalized populations, the stress begins with the struggle to find competent representation that will bring about justice without breaking the bank. This is where James Doran of Waller Law steps in.
Believing that a simple act can change the course of someone’s life, Doran has accepted more than 200 pro bono cases since 2013 through Legal Aid Society‘s (LAS) Volunteer Lawyers Program.
LAS’s mission is to advance, defend, and enforce the legal rights of low-income and vulnerable people in order to secure for them the basic necessities of life.
Doran guides clients through the judicial process, explains complex issues, and gives our community’s most vulnerable members access to the justice they deserve.
Through his work, Doran provides safety to domestic violence victims, maintains income and benefits for those struggling to make ends meet, and much more. Doran continues to utilize his expertise and combine it with his passion for justice to ensure all voices are heard within the legal system.
Volunteers at Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee
During a relaxation and imagery session with Claudia Prange, Gilda’s Club members – men, women, teens, and children who’ve been affected by cancer – are given a sense of community and hope and encouraged to feel at peace.
Gilda’s Club is a cancer support center that focuses on five critical components: support groups, education, healthy lifestyle, social connectivity, and information. Prange leads sessions that encourage mind-body stress reduction.
“Claudia’s sessions are so inclusive. She makes sure everyone has an opportunity to share their personal stories, feelings, and challenges,” says Gilda’s Club Program Manager Allison Yonker, LCSW. “Most importantly though, Claudia teaches a tool that people can use anywhere to better manage their circumstances – things like chemo, scans, and other anxiety-creating events.”
For Gilda’s Club member Julianne, relaxation sessions helped her cope with and maintain a sense of mental well-being when both her husband and son were diagnosed with cancer.
“In addition to the time spent meditating, I can use the techniques I learn from Claudia to feel at peace no matter where I am,” she says.
Volunteer at Williamson County CASA, Inc.
When children are cast into the complex, chaotic, and uncertain environment of courtrooms and foster care, it is imperative to their well-being that they receive support. Williamson County CASA volunteer Martha Johnson meets this need by listening to their stories, speaking to courts on their behalf, and finding them a safe place to live.
Williamson County CASA’s mission is to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children and ensure that each child finds a safe and permanent home.
For the past 11 years, Johnson, as a court-appointed special advocate, has offered exceptional compassion and support to each child and individual in the child’s life.
Johnson goes above and beyond in every case she’s involved in, from taking over a challenging case that another CASA volunteer had to back out of, to working on cases that move from foster care to adoption – no matter how long the process takes.
“The joy of being able to help children who find their forever home after years of abuse is like no other,” Johnson says. “And I have such respect for families who, with such commitment and perseverance, open their homes and their hearts to children who often present challenges they weren’t really expecting.”