This category of the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards recognizes individuals who have contributed significant volunteer time, energy, and/or resources to help an agency’s constituents.
Volunteers at Nashville Dolphins
When a Nashville Dolphins swimmer gets into the pool to begin their lesson with Adam Crookston, they are transported to a fantasy world where skills like blowing bubbles underwater earn them invisible treasures and imaginary points.
Crookston, a volunteer assistant to Nashville Dolphins’ instructors, creates imaginative swim lessons for participants based on their interests to ensure they feel comfortable, excited, and challenged.
Nashville Dolphins is a nonprofit whose mission is to bring the physical and emotional benefits of swimming to people with special needs regardless of age, ability, or financial circumstances. Through free aquatic programming, participants develop physical fitness, build confidence, establish friendships, and experience the pride and joy of being part of a team.
Crookston has set the bar high for swim lessons by creating a standard of engagement that inspires other volunteers and instructors. Swimmers can’t wait to swim with Crookston, and at times won’t start their lesson until after he has arrived.
Volunteers at Preston Taylor Ministries
Every Thursday, the students of Preston Taylor Ministries’ after-school program are met by Aidan Pace, a weekly volunteer who is there to help them with their schoolwork and be a positive presence in their lives.
Preston Taylor Ministries operates their after-school program at the McGruder Family Resource Center, and in addition to tutoring, provides students with a safe space to go when they are done with school for the day. Students use this time to prepare for school and get extra help and attention from mentors.
Pace is a frequent Preston Taylor Ministries volunteer and, in addition to his work at their after-school program, meets with eighth-grade student Arkee every Thursday for breakfast and Bible study. During these meetings, Arkee can express himself and explore his faith.
“Aidan has jumped in at McGruder, and even brought four friends with him his first day back!” says Emily Gitter, Youth Resource Director at Preston Taylor Ministries. “The kids he has interacted with before remember him by name, and he knows them well enough to greet them by name.”
La Rhonda Potts
Volunteers at CASA Nashville
When La Rhonda Potts volunteers, she thinks less about what she can get out of the experience and more about how she can make a difference in a child’s life. Potts is a court-appointed special advocate for CASA Nashville, a program that supplies advocates for abused and neglected children caught in the court system. Advocates help children find safe and permanent homes.
Potts has been a volunteer advocate with CASA Nashville since 2014, and during her time with the organization she has served on three cases. For each of these cases, Potts has gone above and beyond in her advocacy.
Always concerned about how decisions affect the life of the child, Potts does everything in her power to make sure each decision made will lead to a positive outcome.
“From the first moment I met La Rhonda, I knew she was committed,” says a foster parent who has worked with Potts. “She has been on top of making sure the case continues to progress. Not only is she knowledgeable about the system, but she has a passion for the children she’s supporting.”
“Her presence in [the children’s] lives has been key. From attending multiple T-ball games to making them feel special at Christmas, she always wants them to feel cared for.”
Volunteers at Best Buddies
For the Best Buddies program at Montgomery Bell Academy, the impact of Catharine Hollifield’s involvement has been astronomical. This is most clearly illustrated by the success of the Best Buddies annual Friendship Walk.
Best Buddies is a nonprofit dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Catharine and her chapter were hands-on with the walk preparation,” says Missy Naff, Director of Programs at Best Buddies. “They spent countless hours helping us execute one of the best walks that I have seen in my eight years with Best Buddies. Because of their efforts we were able to host over 2,000 of our participants for a day filled with pure joy.”
Hollifield leads students at Montgomery Bell Academy in order to provide social opportunities to the participants of the Best Buddies program. Through her work, Hollifield has helped Montgomery Bell Academy implement new initiatives to further inclusion and awareness.
Under her guidance, Montgomery Bell Academy has been twice selected as Chapter of the Year by Best Buddies International.