Congratulations to these three finalists in the Direct Service—Older Adult category of the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until June 15 at the button below!
Volunteers with Siloam Health
Dennis Caffrey serves as a Spanish Medical Interpreter at Siloam Health. Volunteering five shifts weekly, he facilitates communication between the patient and provider during a visit or clinical examination at Siloam, assists with translating written documents, makes phone calls for nurses, and trains new medical interpreters who go on to become great volunteer interpreters themselves.
Dennis began this work in 2010, and has been volunteering longer than the majority of Siloam Health’s staff. In 2020 he reached the milestone of 5,000 hours served with Siloam, completing 500 of those last year alone, amid a pandemic.
He started to learn Spanish when he was 8-years-old, and advanced his knowledge of the language throughout college. Dennis spent 15 years of his Air Force career working in and with Latin America. Shortly after retiring from the Center For Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., he and his wife moved to Murfreesboro.
“After about four months of ‘doing nothing,’ I took a course to become a medical interpreter and it was there that I learned about Siloam,” Dennis says. “It seemed like the perfect way for me to share my language and cultural skills while helping our non-English speaking neighbors deal with their health needs. That was by far the best decision I made since retirement.”
As Siloam navigated serving on the frontlines of the pandemic with an incredibly diverse patient base, Dennis was the steady go-between communicator as staff cared for COVID-19 patients, educated others about the risks of the coronavirus, and eventually began administering vaccines to patients. His help in not only interpreting one language from another but overcoming cultural barriers ensured patients felt comfortable, heard, and that their needs were being met.
“Dennis is an amazing volunteer and we could not hold ourselves to the standard of care that we do without the volunteer work that he provides,” his nominator says.
Volunteers with PFLAG Nashville, Open Table Nashville, Nashville Launch Pad, Planned Parenthood, and others
Kathy Halbrooks fills her days with volunteerism. She serves with PFLAG (a national support organization
for LGBTQ+ people, their families, and allies), Open Table Nashville, Nashville Launch Pad, Planned Parenthood, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Trans Buddy Program all on a regular (if not weekly) basis.
Each of these organizations she’s chosen with care. Whether it was a result of a local political issue that gave her insight about the discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community, making sure everyone has accessing to safe, affordable, reproductive health care, or her aspirations to see a future where everyone has housing and live-in situations that allow their basic needs to be met.
Kathy has been an ally with the LGBTQ+ community for 19 years. In addition to her full-time job, she serves on the board of PFLAG Nashville and as the regional director for PFLAG National, and has volunteered on the board of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition and GLSEN Tennessee.
During the pandemic Kathy continued to volunteer, despite being at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. At Open Table Nashville she delivers food, warm blankets, and clothes to encampments around town; offers security from protestors to clients at Planned Parenthood; and provides support to transgender people during doctor appointments through VUMC’s Trans Buddy Program. In her nomination, Kathy’s nominator particularly mentioned Kathy’s heart for service when she volunteered on Christmas Eve at Nashville Launch Pad to make sure LGBTQ+ youths had a warm place to stay, food for dinner, and a present to know they are worthy.
“I, who have many privileges, have been blessed by the many people I’ve met who are brave, resilient, loving, and compassionate,” Kathy says. “I’m grateful for every person whose life has touched mine, even for the briefest moment.”
Volunteers with UpRise Nashville
UpRise Nashville is a career development program that provides training in highly sought-after skills along with leadership and personal development, to give Nashvillians a way to stop living paycheck to paycheck and launch a career. Many of their emerging leaders, (referred to as leaders) come from low-income situations, and travel across the city to attend programs with UpRise. Often, these leaders face transportation issues, whether it’s not having their own vehicles, money for public transportation, or the means to manage working, childcare, and attending classes.
Facing these challenges is where Stephen Kohl has lent his talents, and has since become an invaluable volunteer to the UpRise program.
Stephen is a full-time commercial photographer, with an extensive knowledge of vehicles and mechanical repairs. Over the last two years, he has single-handedly repaired six leaders’ cars at no cost and transformed three cars donated to UpRise into reliable transportation for leaders.
He has devoted about 300 hours repairing cars to ensure leaders can get to class, childcare services, and ultimately, their new jobs. Stephen has never turned down a challenging repair, and is always a phone call away (even while on vacation). He assesses a vehicle’s issues, buys car parts, and willingly repairs as necessary.
“Uprise is a ministry facilitated by my church, so being able to serve this organization is very personal for me,” Stephen says. “I’m called upon to help get vehicles in working order for Uprise participants, and some of the cars have proven quite challenging for me, a self-taught mechanic. However, this opportunity has exponentially grown and expanded my skill set, and helping make sure Uprise participants have reliable vehicles has been the most rewarding part.”
The energy Stephen has spent not only repairing used vehicles, but shopping around the metro area for quality used parts remains invaluable to leaders and their families. Stephen owns his own company, yet continues to volunteer with transportation challenges on a weekly basis.
To see a full list of the nominees for the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.