Congratulations to these three finalists in the Social Justice Impact category of the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until April 30 at the button below!
Volunteers with Open Table Nashville
John Bull is a longtime volunteer for Open Table Nashville (OTN), an interfaith, grassroots nonprofit that seeks to disrupt cycles of poverty, journey with the marginalized and provide education about issues of homelessness. Whether on the streets, in the woods, under bridges or in encampments, OTN meets Nashville’s homeless population where they are — and no one exemplifies this more than Bull , who assists with outreach efforts day in and day out. In his daily visits to encampments, Bull acts as the eyes and ears for OTN among the unhoused community, providing the supplies they need to survive outside, communicating when the overflow shelter is open, monitoring flood activity and transporting those in need of medical attention. On their own, these actions are vital to humanizing those impacted by homelessness, a population that has grown substantially over the years in number and need. However, to do it the way Bull does – tirelessly, daily and totally ingrained into his routine – is lifesaving.
Bull ’s efforts extend beyond daily checks. In 2021 and for many years now, he has attended WeGO board meetings, city council meetings and other community meetings to better campaign for accessible resources for the unhoused, the decriminalization of homelessness and affordable housing. He is a one-of-a-kind volunteer who does the direct, daily work while also advocating for sustainable, systemic changes that our city needs.
“John makes a huge difference in so many people’s lives that just need someone to help them access the systems of care that currently are not accessible in our city,” his nominator shared. “They just need someone on their side, and John is this someone for so, so many of our unhoused friends. It is rare to have someone who shows up for our unhoused friends in the capacity he does — always advocating for our friends, never judging, all as an organic, authentic part of his own lifestyle.”
When asked about his nomination, Bull simply said: “We are all in this together.”
Volunteers with Moms Demand Action Tennessee
Linda McFadyen-Ketchum has given almost 50 years of volunteer service to the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee. As a full-time volunteer activist for national organization Moms Demand Action, she gives a voice and power to those who are impacted by gun violence. In 2013, McFadyen-Ketchum jump-started the organization of Tennessee’s ‘Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America’ following the Sandy Hook massacre. Through determination and grassroots leadership, Linda helped grow from a Nashville chapter of five moms to a fully-fledged, nationally recognized organization that includes nine local groups statewide.
Since founding the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action, McFadyen-Ketchum has devoted her life to achieving justice and peace for those impacted by gun violence. Her dedication extends to legislative efforts, such as educating lawmakers; testifying before the legislature; establishing a “State Legislative Rapid Response Team” in Middle Tennessee; and coordinating with other statewide organizations serving vulnerable populations affected by gun violence like Tennessee trauma surgeons, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, the NAACP and racial justice organizations, foster care agencies, and suicide prevention organizations. Most importantly, however, Linda lifts up survivors: She invites survivors and families who have lost loved ones to meetings to offer respect and healing.
“Linda’s exceptional volunteer work with Moms Demand Action Tennessee gives a voice and power to those who are impacted by gun violence and gun deaths in our city and state,” a colleague shared. “Many of those victims are African American children and their mothers and families, many deeply in need of a voice for their pain and loss.”
“Many [survivors] don’t have power or resources, and are especially vulnerable in the face of such grief. We lift up survivors by using our power and resources to assist them,” McFadyen-Ketchum said. “I am a survivor of gun violence and a retired public school teacher. The Sandy Hook School shooting in 2012 woke me up to the gun violence epidemic we Americans are living with now. We don’t have to live like this, and I am doing everything I can to save Tennesseans from gun death and injury.”
Volunteers with Hands On Nashville and Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition
A local and national community organizer and activist, Veronica Zavaleta has availed herself to Nashville’s immigrant community and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients since 2010. Amid changing legislation and uncertainty, she has gone above and beyond the call of duty, helping to coordinate an event to benefit Nashville’s Hispanic community impacted by the flood, recruiting other volunteers and organizing outreach to assist with everything from supplies to paperwork for immigration cases.
Immigration issues hold a personal element for Zavaleta, yet she takes great personal risk each day to fight for the local immigrant community, one which has historically been ignored and underserved. Her selflessness is evident in the breadth and depth of her service — she not only gives her all to uplifting this community, but also recruits others to the same cause, amplifying her impact and maximizing the potential for change. In the words of a colleague, “What sets Veronica apart is that she goes beyond what is being asked of her. She is always an advocate at heart. For Veronica, anybody in need regardless of the reason needs to be addressed, and she ensures that happens.”
“I was called to serve in this world, and if I don’t serve, I don’t know what I would do,” said Zavaleta about her nomination.
To see a full list of the nominees for the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.