Congratulations to these three finalists in the Social Justice Impact category of the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until June 15 at the button below!
Volunteers with The Community Resource Center of Nashville and The Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE)
Donna Pack serves more than 20 hours a week for the refugee community around Nashville, working closely with the Community Resource Center of Nashville, (CRC) and The Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE). For the volunteers and the organizations she serves, they have lovingly nicknamed her “St. Donna of Nolensville Road.”
One of the areas Donna is most dedicated to is the residents of the Highland Apartments. Once the pandemic hit, many nonprofits were forced to pause operations. But Donna took it upon herself to continue meeting needs however she could. She connected with the Nashville Diaper Connection to get donated diapers to mothers in need, The Nashville Food Project to feed hungry families, and was committed to finding solutions to any type of problem thrown her way. She assisted with transportation, finding clothes, citizenship classes, and even delivering babies—all while navigating many different language barriers.
Donna was inspired to begin working with refugees because of her daughter. Together they connected with The Lost Boys Foundation of Nashville, and since then Donna says their holiday tables have never looked the same.
“These young men led me into a place of being a mom for their new life in America,” Donna says.
“Once these relationships were established, many others followed from other countries as I became involved with resettlement.”
Donna reunited more than one family with their loved ones over the past year. Her nominator shared a story of a mother in Nashville whose young son was stuck in Honduras. He attempted immigrating to Texas through many dangerous means, and was eventually connected with NYC Catholic Charities to provide him a flight to Nashville. After seeing a worried mother reunite with her son, Donna and her nominator agree, it’s something you could never forget.
“My life is richer and deeper than I ever believed possible…food, culture and certainly new family continues to be grafted into my life,” Donna says. “We laugh and cry together, celebrate and mourn. I am very lucky to ‘do life’ with my immigrant and refugee family.”
Volunteers with Book’em
Volunteer Meredith McKinney created The Black Book Project, an initiative designed to get diverse books into the hands of Nashville’s kids. The Project aimed to bring in more books featuring children of color characters onto Book’em bookshelves, and raise awareness about the importance of children seeing themselves in the books they read, and celebrate the authors and publishers working to provide more diverse representation in children’s literature.
Her original goal was to donate 500 books through community donations. But, word about Meredith’s project quickly spread, and within six weeks she had brought in more than 1,000 diverse children’s books. She spread her mission through Amazon Wishlists, Facebook, and creating a weekly author spotlight where she chatted with black authors on social media, and caught the attention of publishers and other organizations working on similar efforts.
“I was drawn to volunteer and sit on the board of directors to offer service to an organization that I feel is making a massive difference in the lives of children across the city of Nashville,” Meredith says. “Literacy is a challenge for many children, and for over 1,000 children in Nashville to receive a book that represents them has impacted my life profoundly, to the point where I have committed to keep this work going!”
Meredith’s nominator says her commitment to prioritizing diversity has expanded Book’em’s program in a way it has never grown before, and added a layer of understanding and value for the children they serve to help better provide for them.
“Meredith was the project leader, donating her precious spare time with a full-time job and family to manage the initiative,” her nominator says. “The Black Book Project only happened, and became such a success, because of Meredith and her consistent, courageous work.”
Volunteers with Silent No Longer
Greta McClain is one of the volunteer founders of Silent No Longer Tennessee (SNLT), a nonprofit started by survivors of sexual violence, for sexual assault survivors.
SNLT’s mission is to support, empower and advocate for sexual assault survivors through the creation of safe spaces for survivors to share their story in creative ways, to provide survivors, allies and advocates the skills required to organize and advocate for themselves and others, and to dismantle stereotypes and erode the systemic causes of sexual violence through awareness, education, and the legislative process.
Greta is open about her history as a sexual assault survivor, and uses her experience to now mentor, advocate, and counsel sexual assault survivors nationwide.
“I can’t change what happened, but what I can change is how I react to that experience and how I use it to help others,” Greta says. “I firmly believe that is why God left me on this earth, and I honor Him by doing the work every day until we end sexual violence.”
Greta has also begun a podcast to further discuss social justice issues, interview activists on the front lines, and speak with musicians who use their music to inspire and create a better world. She records the her podcast, “Tones of Justice,” with her co-host, Nadeem S EL.
In addition to her work with SNLT, Greta volunteers for Enough Is Enough, Indivisible TN 2.0 , Women’s March Tennessee, Everyday Revolutionaries, Cold Patrol, Black Lives Matter, Dream Networkers, and many other groups, charities and nonprofit organizations.
“Being nominated for the Mary Catherine Strobel award is a huge honor, and was very surprising,” Greta says. “I’ve known about Mrs. Strobel’s dedication to the community, especially the unhoused community, since I was in high school and I have admired her for years. I am extremely humbled to be nominated, and even more so to be a finalist.”
To see a full list of the nominees for the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.