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!
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.
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.
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.