Congratulations to these three finalists in the Group Volunteer Service category of the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until April 30 at the button below!
Come to the Table
Volunteers who founded an initiative to feed the hungry while offering physical, emotional and spiritual support.
Come to the Table Tennessee is a faith-based nonprofit community organization established in January 2019 by Jennifer Ray and Gloria Damron, out of the desire to feed the hungry while offering physical, emotional and spiritual support. Each week, Jennifer and Gloria serve a free hot meal at Damron’s Restaurant to anyone in need — children, the elderly and all ages in between. Since 2019, they have grown Come to the Table by recruiting new volunteers to the cause, who now serve between 95 and 150 guests weekly.
What sets this organization apart is not just feeding the hungry and meeting basic needs. These women and the other volunteers strive to meet emotional needs as well, lending an ear, offering friendship free of judgment, and providing a community where people can eat, talk and laugh – filling a void that too often goes unnoticed in the lives of the hungry. As their colleague explains: “These two ladies are committed to lessening the burden of hunger in our town. There are other food sources in town, but the difference in this one is not only do they strive to feed those who are hungry but they also minister to them through non-judgmental friendship and caring.”
“[Gloria] and I began the ministry in January 2019, hoping to feed the hungry in our community a hot meal one night each week. Together we are making a difference in the lives of 100-plus each week,” Jennifer said. We laugh together, pray together and share life together. It is about more than feeding their bodies; it is about feeding their souls and sharing hope with them.”
Connect Us Outreach Ministry Volunteers: Frank Brooks, Mary Yarbrough, and Evang. Kathy Morrison
Volunteers who serve locally to provide food boxes, clothing, and household goods for those in need.
For years, Frank Brooks, Mary Yarbrough and Evang. Kathy Morrison have volunteered at Connect Us Outreach Ministry, a locally owned outreach center that provides hands-on work to make a difference in the lives of those across the Nashville community.
Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Frank, Mary and Kathy have risen above the call of duty, diligently preparing and distributing food boxes, clothing and household goods for those in need, distributing masks and sack lunches to homeless populations throughout the city, and providing necessary supplies to tornado victims. They have embodied Connect Us Outreach Ministry’s core mission each day, treating all whom they serve with grace regardless of religion. For those with needs that outstrip the Ministry’s resources, Frank, Mary and Kathy have worked tirelessly to connect them with the necessary resources through other organizations.
This trio has dedicated their lives to serving the community. This past summer, Frank tragically passed away, a significant loss for the Ministry, his fellow volunteers and the city. In a true testament to his love for this community, Frank spent his last day assisting Kathy and Mary with food box assembly. To this day, Kathy and Mary continue to volunteer with Connect Us, and do so in Frank’s honor and memory.
When asked about her nomination, Mary said, “I was drawn to this Ministry by the work of the director working with women that were homeless, in the jail system, and those in the community that are in need by providing clothing, food boxes and household goods when they find housing.”
Congregation of Alameda Christian Church
Volunteers who serve with the Society of St. Andrew to coordinate and facilitate large-scale food distributions for communities in need.
The congregation of Alameda Christian Church has volunteered with the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) for five years, aiding the nonprofit in their efforts to provide healthy food, reduce food waste and forge community bonds by ensuring no one goes hungry.
Alameda has striven to involve as many members of their congregation as possible, from youth groups to deacons. In the last two years, they have hosted three “crop drops,” which are large-scale events to distribute food boxes and thousands of pounds of freshly grown produce to those in need. In addition to hosting, they ensured the event was accessible for all, so that all volunteers, regardless of age or ability, were able to take part in dropping off the food, organizing food bags, and distributing to agencies and others in need. In total, their work to host the last three crop drops increased the amount of food shared in middle Tennessee by 76,000 pounds.
Through their diligence and dedication, Alameda has helped SoSA reach new, underserved areas of the Nashville community.
“We are a small church with a BIG heart. Our members are a diverse, inter-generational team of volunteers with a singular mission to put healthy, fresh, nutritious produce in the hands of those in need in the community,” said Alameda Christian Church representatives about their work. “We are blessed and grateful to volunteer with the Society of St. Andrew to be change agents making a difference in alleviating hunger issues in the community.”
To see a full list of the nominees for the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.