Tag Archives: Direct Service Older Adults

Strobel Finalists 2022: Direct Service — Older Adult

Congratulations to these three finalists in the Direct Service—Older Adult category of the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until April 30 using the button below!

Carole Sergent

Carole Sergent
Volunteers with Tennessee Resettlement Aid, Nashville International Center for Empowerment, The Branch of Nashville, and individual refugee families

Carole Sergent was one of the few independent volunteers who saw a need and carved her own path to meet it. When the Afghan refugees began to arrive in Nashville, Sergent immediately acted by collecting donations needed for survival. Since then, she has recruited over 200 people who help to donate and deliver items to over 250 Afghan refugees who have arrived in the United States.  

When refugees began arriving in Nashville, official relief agencies were not fully staffed, which is when Sergent jumped in to provide crucial services to those in need. She began working with the Tennessee Resettlement Aid (TRA) to create a network of donors through word-of-mouth and social media to provide clothing, linens, household items, toiletries, toys, and more. The TRA now works alongside the Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE) to receive necessary information about new Afghan arrivals and volunteers. This system provides emergency boxes of food from The Branch of Nashville food bank to families two or three times per day.  

Through her service, Sergent has served many Afghans and has hundreds of success stories for providing resources and opportunity for refugees. She not only provides refugees with the items they need for survival, but has also helped them find schools for children, jobs, documentation needed for work, and even opened her home to those who need a place to do laundry.  “There are hundreds of success stories from Carole because she has created a huge volunteer network and is managing it to work efficiently and effectively. Every volunteer who has delivered emergency food or clothing or transportation can tell you a story that would make you cry,” shared a colleague of Sergent’s. 


Edward Arnell

Edward Arnell
Volunteers with Preston Taylor Ministries 

Edward Arnell has been a consistent and dependable face to many of the students at Preston Taylor Ministries. Serving the students of Mt. Nebo four days a week, Arnell has become not only a mentor to many of the students, but also a friend, tutor and spiritual adviser.  

Within Preston Taylor Ministries, many of the people who dedicate their time do not reflect the population of the surrounding neighborhood and the culture of the students. Arnell not only lives in the neighborhood but is also a volunteer of color. With Preston Taylor Ministries serving a majority African American population, students can relate and feel more connected to Arnell and his service. “When students see Mr. Edward serving, they can see themselves doing the same. This is what causes change in communities, people being inspired to be the difference,” shared a colleague of Arnell’s.  

He has become a role model and inspirational guide for many of the students at Preston Taylor Ministries by providing them with homework and reading tutoring that has allowed them to exponentially increase their grades in school. Arnell also provides meals to students once a week through his own income. His full-course meals with homemade desserts have become a favorite of the students at Mt. Nebo.  

As a deacon at Mt. Nebo, Arnell also acts as a spiritual adviser for the students at Preston Taylor Ministries. He is known to give truthful and inspiring advice to the students while also providing them with scripture that he encourages them to memorize and live out daily.   


Vera Coleman

Vera Coleman
Volunteers with FiftyForward 

As a National Community Engagement Partner for the All of Us Research Program, Vera Coleman joined the nonprofit organization FiftyForward to help advance precision medicine with the National Institutes of Health. 

As one of the All of Us Research Program’s first ambassadors, Coleman has been volunteering alongside the program since its launch in 2018. The newly founded program’s goal is to recruit 1 million volunteers from historically underrepresented communities in biomedical research to share their health information and transform the current one-size-fits-all health care system. Because of Coleman’s contribution, the All of Us Research Program has enrolled over 450,000 individuals so far, with over 80% of those representing historically underrepresented communities in biomedical research. The All of Us Research Program team helps staff community events and health fairs and speaks at in-person and virtual events. Vera has additionally gone the extra mile to sit on nationwide panel discussions on the need for diversity, including older adults, in medical research. The volunteer role requires a heavy amount of in-person interaction that requires a sense of trust from the potential program enrollees.

Coleman has been known to not only earn the trust of those enrollees, but also become a respected leader in her community as she is quick to address fears and concerns of those she’s created relationships with. She has been known to her team and program enrollees for her wisdom, expertise and compassion in her personal interactions.  

During the pandemic, Coleman continued her dedication and services to the All of Us Research Program as a virtual panelist on discussions of diversity and a podcast guest on FiftyForward’s new podcast, Squeeze the Day, where she discusses overcoming online barriers.   With a strong scientific background as the first African American woman in the field of research at Meharry University and Vanderbilt University, Coleman is a trusted source among many. “I’ve always believed in the merits of research. Now, I have an awesome opportunity to be involved in something that will prove beneficial not only for me, but for my family and community as well. The All of Us Research Program has become my passion,” she shared.


To see a full list of the nominees for the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.

Strobel Finalists 2021: Direct Service — Older Adult

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!

Dennis Caffrey 

Dennis Caffrey 
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. 

•••

Kathy Halbrooks  

Kathy Halbrooks  
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.” 

•••

Stephen Kohl 

Stephen Kohl 
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.