Each year, Hands On Nashville celebrates Middle Tennessee’s outstanding volunteers through the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards. More than 140 nominations have been narrowed down to 21 finalists, and now it’s time for you to weigh in!
You can help ensure these inspiring stories are seen widely by hosting a voting party for friends, family, or colleagues. Act fast because voting closes on June 15!
How to host a voting party in three easy steps:
1) Schedule a 30-minute event (virtual or in person, but you will need tech to vote) with your guests. This is plenty of time to read all of the great stories, vote for your favorite volunteer in each category, and share on social media. Here is some language to use in the invite if you’d like: Join me for a voting party! Let’s get inspired by Nashville’s amazing volunteers and help them win $1,000 to donate to the charity of their choice. You can also win a $250 Target gift card! Here is the voting page if you want a sneak peak!
2) During the event, encourage participants to share their favorite stories, favorite volunteers, and favorite agencies. This should be a fun, inspiring, high-energy voting party. Ask if guests have their own inspiring stories to share.
3) Reserve the last 5 to 10 minutes to ensure that all participants vote for one finalist in each category and then share their excitement/choice on social media — being sure to tag @HONashville. Consider posting a “group photo” from your voting party, too!
Things to remember:
You can vote for your favorite volunteer once/day from now through June 15.
Each vote automatically enters you into a drawing to win a $250 Target gift card.
The award recipient in each category will receive $1,000 to donate to the nonprofit agency of their choice!
The lucky gift card winner and the Strobel Award recipients will be announced on July 1.
Congratulations to these three finalists in the Capacity-building Volunteer category of the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until June 15 at the button below!
Jena Altstatt Volunteers with Hands On Nashville
When the March 2020 tornado struck Nashville, Jena Altstatt jumped into action, immediately reaching out to Hands On Nashville to see how she could help. Once it became apparent that there was a major need for volunteer leader training, Jena wasted no time filling that role.
She quickly created training materials, put them online and administered them for days to get trained leaders out into the field. As a trusted leader and trained volunteer administrator, she used her skill to educate others so that Nashville could get the coordination and support needed to ensure recovery efforts went smoothly. Her assistance gave Hands On Nashville a much wider, organized reach in the community in the aftermath of the tornado, and helped established communication with those who needed help most.
In all, Jena trained and sent out 100 volunteer leaders to help coordinate recovery efforts, and her work was critical in amplifying the impact volunteers could have during this very chaotic time. While many people shy away from the “behind-the-scenes” roles in the face of a disaster, Jena ran at it head-on.
“I volunteer because I’m able to. I see it less as volunteering and more about participating in my community, which I think is just a part of being human,” Jena said. “I’ve worked with volunteers professionally for the past 10 years, and so I know a lot about how volunteers impact not only organizations but communities in general.”
Jena’s steady and useful presence helped to calm the Hands On Nashville staff during an incredibly trying time for the community. Her willingness to lend a helping hand made a world of difference to a hurting community.
Corrie Anderson Volunteers with Community Resource Center of Nashville
Stricken by the March 2020 tornado and its path of destruction – as well as a devastating global pandemic – Corrie Anderson felt personally inspired to do as much good as possible for Nashville’s recovery efforts. She channeled her time and energy into the Community Resource Center of Nashville (CRC), helping to raise awareness, recruit volunteers and, ultimately, maximize their level of support for the city’s most impacted populations.
For 35 years, the CRC has served as a supply line to the city’s front lines of poverty, providing partner agencies with the resources they need to offer their critical services. When last year’s tornado and the onset of the pandemic sent recovery efforts into overdrive, Corrie saw it as an opportunity to grow the nonprofit’s capabilities and meet the needs of her neighbors. She worked tirelessly to promote the CRC and recruit fellow volunteers for disaster relief. Prior to Corrie, the nonprofit had virtually no social media presence and a volunteer base of fewer than 20 people; thanks to her efforts, the CRC now has more than 120 unique volunteers each month and regular weekly and monthly volunteers. As a result of her work, the CRC is able to consistently answer the call for Nashvillians in the wake of disaster.
“I am honestly just so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve our neighbors in such a trying year,” Corrie says. “I am so inspired and motivated by everyone who volunteers and donates items, by our partner agencies who are making our city a better place every single day, by small businesses that stepped in eagerly to help, and by the leadership at the CRC. Everyone is coming together for the same purpose – to serve our neighbors, to provide support.”
Suzanne Hartness Volunteers with Legal Aid Society of Middle TN and the Cumberlands
Motivated by the cause of the Legal Aid Society of Middle TN and the Cumberlands (LAS), Suzanne Hartness made it her own personal mission in 2020 to help the nonprofit in every capacity possible. In addition to her other volunteer work, Suzanne took the initiative in event planning, fundraising, development and outreach efforts to grow the nonprofit and ensure its longevity in serving Nashville’s hardest-hit citizens.
Following her introduction to LAS, Suzanne threw herself wholeheartedly into furthering its mission of providing free legal counsel for and enforcing the legal rights of low-income and vulnerable Nashvillians. She helped plan the annual Breakfast of Champions fundraising event and secured more than $10,000 in sponsorships for LAS’ annual Campaign for Equal Justice. She also spearheaded the nonprofit’s Ambassador program, helping recruit community leaders across the state to educate the public about LAS’ services. She has also brought the support of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of Legal Administrators and its 50 member law firms to LAS – a vital addition to the organization’s stable of volunteer attorneys.
Due to her efforts and experience, LAS has already seen a significant increase in new supporters and community awareness.
“Suzanne has a full-time job but treats her volunteer work with equal importance,” said Derria Ford of LAS. “She constantly comes up with innovative ways to reach new audiences and spread the word about causes that are important to her. Her spirit has been an inspiration to our staff and board.”
“Working with the team at LAS continues to inspire me to find opportunities to ‘give back’ and to ‘lift up’ when possible,” Suzanne said. “The need for their legal services is not diminishing. I want to support them by encouraging others to get involved and in finding incremental financial resources to assist them in their efforts.”
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 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 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 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.
Teaka Jackson Volunteers with Love Thy Neighbors, and multiple other community organizations
Teaka Jackson is an active community member who has fully embodied what it means to care for others. Whether it’s organizing a Valentine’s Day sock drive for seniors, raising awareness during National Autism Awareness Month, acting as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children (CASA), or responding in the wake of a disaster, her compassion extends to all kinds of people.
Teaka credits her caring heart to her family. Community involvement was a large part of her childhood, and she remembers consistently volunteering and supporting various charitable causes and organizations.
“As I grew into adulthood my passion became more evident and I knew volunteer service was apart of my purpose leading me to fight for the most vulnerable people and communities by contributing a significant amount of my time, energy, and resources,” she says.
Teaka founded Love Thy Neighbors, which is geared toward engaging the community through programming, events and initiatives that will aide in providing education, tools, resources and opportunities.
In addition to her nonprofit, she is active with organizations like Autism Speaks, Tennessee Justice Center, America Cancer Society, Hands On Nashville, Nashville Rescue Mission, Second Harvest Food Bank, Susan G. Komen, Nashville Cares, the Martha O’Bryan Center, the YWCA, American Red Cross, Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, and Prevention Alliance of Tennessee.
Teaka was also selected for Nashville’s Black 40 under 40 Award for 2020, and is the recipient of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities Award in conjunction with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.
“Volunteer service has impacted my life in many ways,” Teaka says. “It has provided me the opportunity to make significant contributions to building a sense of unity and purpose in the community that will aide in improving the lives of others. By volunteering I have gained a unique sense of purpose which manifests in all areas of my life.”
Laura Prechel Volunteers with RARE Rescue and Charlie’s Angels Saving Animals
Laura Prechel has dedicated her life to saving animals from kill shelters in rural Tennessee. Last year she saved more than 2,800 animals from being euthanized, and commits to driving three transports per week to rescues in other states.
“Laura is a one of a kind,” says her nominator. “She works a full time job in real estate, all while coordinating the rescue and vetting of thousands of animals a year.”
In addition to transportation, Laura fosters hard to adopt pups that wouldn’t otherwise have a chance, and often spends her own money to vet and transport these animals to rescue partners.
Education is also part of her mission. Laura engages with rural communities about various spay and neuter programs, and supplies rural rescues with necessary vaccines for homeless pets.
“Once I became aware of the volume of companion animals that are euthanized every year I felt compelled to act,” Laura says. “I began by fostering dogs and my involvement has snowballed into a life mission.”
She got involved in animal rescue five years ago, transporting Maury County shelter dogs to shelters in the Northeast that had ample space. For the past three years she’s served with RARE Rescue as the transport director, before founding her own nonprofit with a few friends, Charlie’s Angels Saving Animals. It is this program’s mission to transport at-risk animals out of Tennessee to shelters that can adequately care for and adopt out these pets.
Quickly her transport team has expanded, and now contains a pilot who is able to fly animals across the country, as well as two vans who engage volunteers to make multiple transports per week.
Savanna Rae Starko Volunteers with Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee
Savanna Starko volunteers with Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee, a nonprofit that provides free support to anyone impacted by cancer, in a variety of ways. Over the past year she has led a virtual meditation session twice a week via ZOOM for Gilda’s Club members. These sessions create a safe, calming space for the people of Gilda’s Club to not only practice mindfulness and relaxation, but to also make space for members to connect and share in ways that foster a sense of community, understanding, and connection.
“Teaching meditation for Gilda’s Club of Middle Tennessee has allowed me to share meaningfully of myself as a registered yoga teacher for others with cancer like me or those in their lives affected by this disease,” Savanna says. “We build connection through breath and intention that ultimately lifts us all up together.”
During the pandemic, Savanna also initiated and led Gilda’s Club’s first virtual fundraiser, a 5K that raised more than $5,000. In addition to raising important funding for the cancer support nonprofit, the event was a fun and creative way for those served to connect, and for new audiences to get to know Gilda’s Club and their mission.
Outreach has been an integral part of Savanna’s work, introducing members to new community partners like Small World Yoga, and promoting resources through Vanderbilt University.
“Savanna embodies the Mary Catherine Strobel volunteer spirit—and it shows in every single encounter she has with our Gilda’s Club community,” says her nominator. “She is always kind, encouraging, supportive and emotionally available, no matter how difficult the moment or conversation. We—and the greater Nashville community—are better because Savanna is a part of it.”
Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee is a place where Savanna says she and her students are seen, heard, and valued as more than people affected by cancer.
“While there, we are whole and complete individuals with so much to offer from our hearts to the world,” she says.
Hannah Bodoh Volunteers through various organizations around Nashville
In a year of uncertainty and destruction, high schooler Hannah Bodoh spent 2020 looking for ways to be a light to others. When the March 2020 tornado hit Nashville, she immediately jumped at the chance to volunteer with Hands On Nashville, helping to deliver meals to families who had been displaced in North Nashville and assisting with cleanup efforts. Then when COVID-19 lockdowns went into effect, Hannah spent her time sewing masks, making baby blankets, sending cards and photos to health care workers and the elderly, and collecting clothing and art supplies to distribute to those who needed them most.
Around the holidays, she stepped up to make and deliver meals to the homeless. When transit shut down due to the Christmas Day bombing, Hannah made sure at-risk Nashvillians received hot meals since they could not get to the shelters.
Throughout the school year, she volunteered for several events to help raise money for Mary’s Meals, an international organization that feeds the hungry.
“For me, service has ignited a deep compassion for others and allowed me to share my skills, while meeting new people in a wide range of situations,” Hannah says. “Without service, I would never know the kindness the world can offer each one of us. To this day, service continues to remind me to love humanity for all of its beauty.”
Hannah has demonstrated an incredibly level of humility and compassion for her age. She makes service a top priority in her schedule, and her efforts have helped countless Nashvillians while inspiring others to step up and make a difference.
Sydnee Floyd Founder of Jumbled Dreams Changing Lives
When she was just 13 years old, Sydnee Floyd founded the nonprofit Jumbled Dreams Changing Lives. In 2020 alone, her nonprofit helped 20 different organizations and several thousand individuals through a number of donations, including clothing, toiletry bags, sanitary wipes, first aid kits, backpacks and more.
Through Jumbled Dreams Changing Lives, Sydnee identifies various volunteer opportunities and then recruits young people, educating them on how they can change lives through volunteer service in the hope they will continue service throughout their lives. She also organized a club, Echoes of Hope, at her high school to get even more students involved in charitable causes.
2020 was a challenging year for the Middle Tennessee community. COVID-19 caused a shortage of support since people weren’t venturing outside of their homes and many businesses helping the homeless were temporarily closed. On top of that, many people lost their jobs, adding to the number of those in need or facing homelessness. Still, in the face of all of that, Sydnee’s organization gathered 100 students and volunteers to provide the needed manpower to gather, sort and pack items to distribute. When the March tornado hit, Jumbled Dreams sprang into action, distributing supplies and materials for victims and volunteers.
Sydnee says she grew up in service, inspired by her mom, and has always looked for ways to help her community.
“Service is my whole world. My passion, fire, fuel and heart. I thrive on helping others, and no matter what that will always be my passion. Because I have seen the smiles, tears, heart and passion of those who are experiencing hard times and those who volunteer with us. It might be hard, but it is worth it seeing the heart and soul of your organization come to life.”
Ian Hooper Volunteers with Urban Bicycle Food Ministry
High school student Ian Hooper became involved with the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry (UBFM) when he was looking to try something new while serving. Since May 2020, he’s logged more than 130 hours of service, biked hundreds of miles and touched countless lives.
Regardless of the weather – heat, cold, rain or snow – the UBFM team bikes into downtown Nashville twice a week to deliver burritos, water, supplies and words of encouragement to those experiencing homelessness. Ian has developed a true passion for UBFM and the ministry they have created. The two nights a week he volunteers have become his favorite nights of the week, and he’s developed relationships not only with the team, but with the people they serve each week.
When Ian injured his leg and had to wear a boot, he did not let that stop him from serving. He continued to drive downtown and meet the team each week, standing by to help deliver blankets and other supplies that could not be easily carried on a bike. On his birthday, he chose to ride and deliver food and cookies to celebrate, instead of going to dinner.
While those who are served each week benefit, the benefit Ian and the rest of the UBFM team receive in return is just as impactful.
Ian says the UBFM organization has saved him from a lot of personal struggles.
“UBFM and the opportunity to serve has made a mark on Ian and fueled his passion to serve others,” said Ian’s mom, Laura.