NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 17, 2020) – Middle Tennesseans were honored for their volunteerism during Hands On Nashville’s 34th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, presented by Jackson National Life Insurance Co. Recipients were unveiled during a multiday, virtual ceremony, which occurred Sept. 14–16.
The annual event recognizes volunteers for their outstanding contributions to the community, and celebrates the life of Mary Catherine Strobel, a Nashvillian who had an outstanding dedication to service. Winners are typically honored during a luncheon at the Music City Center; however, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit opted to recognize recipients virtually.
“Mary Catherine Strobel was the living embodiment of generosity and service to others,” said Lori Shinton, president and CEO of Hands On Nashville. “In light of the recent events in our community – including the March tornado and pandemic currently impacting our country – it is more important now than ever to honor the amazing volunteers who do Mary Catherine’s legacy proud by giving back.”
Community members submitted 165 nominations for the 2020 Strobel Volunteer Awards.
“This event celebrates the spirit of giving that is so crucial to improving our city,” said Aimee DeCamillo, chief commercial officer and president, Jackson National Life Distributors LLC, the presenting sponsor for the awards. “We are thrilled to take part in such a proud tradition and help recognize all of these volunteers for their incredible dedication, in the hopes that they may inspire the next generation of givers to take up the cause.”
The award recipients are as follows:
Sherri Mitchell-Snider – Capacity-building Volunteer Award
Chicktime – Civic Volunteer Group Award
Creative Artists Agency Nashville – Corporate Volunteerism Award
Emily Phan – Direct Service Volunteer Award (Ages 5 to 20)
Adam Crookston – Direct Service Volunteer Award (Ages 21 to 49)
Claudia Prange – Direct Service Volunteer Award (Ages 50-plus)
About the Awards
The Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards are named in memory of the late Mary Catherine Strobel, known for her extensive and charitable efforts toward improving the lives of Middle Tennessee’s homeless, impoverished and less fortunate populations. The annual awards ceremony celebrates her service and recognizes those who continue her legacy. View all nominees for the 2020 awards.
This category of the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards recognizes representatives of civic, membership, faith-based or non-corporate groups that volunteer together for a specific cause or issue.
This year’s finalists are:
Volunteers at Youth Villages
During their visits to the Youth Villages Wallace Group Home, Chicktime members spend their time getting to know the girls, providing emotional support, love, and life skills — paired with a little bit of fun.
There are 10 young women at Wallace Group Home who have been separated from their families by the State of Tennessee and are awaiting reunification or a foster home placement. Each month, Chicktime volunteers visit the girls, and provide all of the supplies, food, and their “chick power” to brighten the girls’ day. Activites range from crafts and poetry, to karaoke nights and visits to local farms.
“The Chicktime members are dedicated to not just serving foster youth, but they are dedicated to serving teens in the foster care system that have a history of abuse, neglect, and/or trauma, and that do not generally trust or respect adults,” said Julie Abbott, the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator with Youth Villages. “The members come back month after month to a revolving group of youth and continue to shower the girls with love, understanding, and patience.”
Holly Stewart and Stephanie Mullenax, Co-founders of the Chicktime Nashville chapter, serve to lay the path for everyone who wants to make a difference in children’s lives by bringing women together to serve.
“We enter these girls’ lives as caring members of the community focused on restoration and just doing what we can to bring a bright spot into their lives,” Stewart says.
Friends Life Community
Volunteers at FiftyForward
Every Thursday and Friday, a smiling, energized group from Friends Life Community delivers meals, provides safety checks, and socializes with homebound senior adults through FiftyForward’s Fresh/Meals on Wheels program.
Through their weekly service, Friends Life Community members are delivering more than food — they’re offering a friendly face, andbuilding a relationship with FiftyForward’s clients.
Friends Life Community members are teenagers and adults with disabilities who participate in service-learning activities in order tobuild valuable employment skills and share their talents and time with local nonprofits.
For 80-year-old Alberta, Friday is one of the most exciting days of the week.
“The beautiful group that delivers my meals on Fridays is a joy in my life,” Alberta said. “I always give them a peppermint and let them know how much I look forward to them delivering my meal each Friday. I’ve even found myself getting up earlier to get dressed nicely so I can spend time talking with them!”
The consistency and dependability shown by Friends Life Communitymembers gives Meals On Wheels participants an abundance ofjoy and encouragement, as well as show that they are not alone.
Tennessee Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy
Volunteers at the American Liver Foundation-Mid South Division
When at the Tennessee Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy (TNVCA) cadets learned what it meant to be a part of the Volunteer State through discipline, structure, education, and service.
The mission of the TNVCA was to intervene in and reclaim the lives of at-risk youth and produce program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens of Tennessee.
During the 2018 and 2019 Liver Life Walks for the American Liver Foundation (ALF), cadets proved to themselves and to their mentors that they were ready and willing to serve.
Cadets helped with a variety of tasks, from setup and teardown to parking cars and refilling water stations. One thing most appreciated about these cadets was their willingness to help with a variety of tasks, even things other volunteers didn’t care to do.
“They are always courteous and willing to do the work, which makde them a delight to have as a volunteer group,” said Teresa Davidson, the National Director of Engagement at ALF-Mid-South.
Cadets at the TNVCA are not only helping with the Liver Life Walk but learning how to be a part of their community and serve other nonprofits in the future.
Note: Unfortunately, due to funding restrictions in light of COVID-19, TNVCA has been permanently shuttered. Learn more here.
Throughout their time at Whitsitt Elementary School, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) volunteers were known for their dependability, kindness, and willingness to help.
Prior to COVID-19, CAA was a staple at Whitsitt students’ first day of class. Among all the hustle and bustle, volunteers guided the students to their classes, and offered support wherever it was needed. This first day of school was where CAA’s support began, but far from where it ended.
“CAA has made a huge impact at our school in the way they consistently and thoughtfully partner to provide the highest level of education to our students,” said Whitsitt Elementary Literacy Coach Heidi Wright. “They have been a staple in helping our community and school connect to further the development and achievement of our students.”
Throughout the school year, CAA volunteers engaged with students as reading buddies and mentors. During three months of their initiative, students read more than 2,000 books. CAA also supported Whitsitt’s music program by donating multiple musical instruments for the classroom, and provided educational and fun field trips to their office annually.
“Not only do they support the school, they support education in a profound way,” said Chris Echegaray, Community Achieves Site Manager. “They are socially conscious, and an organization that truly cares about moving the needle.”
The Surgical Clinic
Volunteers with the Amputee Blade Runners
The Surgical Clinic (TSC) is a group of private practice surgeons whose specialties span across the board. One of their specialty divisions, the prosthetic institute, has partnered with nonprofit organization the Amputee Blade Runners (ABR) to create free running prosthetics for amputees.
One of the founders of ABR, Aaron Fitzsimmons, is a prosthetist with The Surgical Clinic, and has grown TSC’s volunteer staff to 10 people; all willing to donate their time and energy to improving the lives of amputee athletes across the country.
“It is not an uncommon thing for multiple TSC employees to stay at work until midnight, helping an athlete regain mobility,” said Joshua Southards, Executive Director of Amputee Blade Runners. “The Surgical Clinic prosthetic staff is the engine that makes the Amputee Blade Runners run.”
Due to health insurance companies deeming running prosthetics “not medically necessary,” it is often impossible for families to afford them on their own. The Surgical Clinic provides prosthetic blades necessary for training and athletic performance. Many of their clients are adopted children from other countries who were given up by their biological families due to their congenital conditions.
One of these athletes is Samuel Tyler, a 16-year-old who received his first pair of sports blade legs in 2015.
Now, as Samuel walks into his local YMCA, he strides with confidence, knowing he will soon be jogging around the track and independently switching out his prosthetic blades when he is ready to use the exercise equipment. He is one of hundreds of people whose lives have been changed by The Surgical Clinic.
Comcast of Nashville
Volunteers at Two Rivers Middle School
Now in its 18th year, Comcast Cares Day is one of the largest corporate commitments to volunteerism and service in America. Comcast of Nashville, the local branch of the national internet service company, has participated annually in the corporate-wide event, making a difference for local schools and the children they serve.
Comcast Cares Day is more than just a day – it is an illustration of the spirit of volunteerism that Comcast employees bring to life each day. From using technology to create positive change, to mentoring youth, stocking food banks, and beautifying parks, Comcast NBCUniversal employees volunteer during this celebration and throughout the year to make a lasting impact.
“Comcast firmly believes that corporations have a responsibility to give back to the communities where their employees and customers live and work and to partner with local governments, organizations, and nonprofits to make our communities stronger,” says Terry Vo, a Community Affairs Expert with Comcast. “We take this mission to heart every single day, and care very much about giving back to our communities to make a long-lasting impact.”
At last year’s Comcast Cares Day, volunteers sorted more than 18,000 pounds of food and packaged nearly 15,000 diapers and 650 backpacks for Metro Nashville Public School students at Two Rivers Middle School. They’ve also opened nine computer labs in Middle Tennessee, painted and installed murals at Two Rivers, and completed landscape maintenance. These service events often involve 70-plus Comcast volunteers.
“Our school’s hallways are more colorful than ever before. We reference one of the murals every week because it inspires our students,” said Hannah Tapp, a 7th grade teacher at Two Rivers Middle School.
This category of the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards honors individuals who provide significant operational or administrative support to a nonprofit agency, faith-based ministry or community organization, or developed an innovative approach to significantly improve an existing program.
Here are the 2020 finalists:
Volunteers at YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee
In 2017, Susanne Post partnered with the YWCA to launch Shear Haven, a training program for local stylists to be able detect signs of domestic abuse among clients.
As a victim of abuse herself, Post knew she wanted to help other women facing the same issue, and as a hair stylist, she knew she was in a unique position to be trusted by victims.
“Often the victim is isolated from their closest family and friends and simply needs to speak their truth to a listening ear and to know that there is support available,” Post says.
Since then, Post has provided significant operational support to the YWCA and has expanded their domestic violence education reach into a specialized community not previously on their radar. This has allowed them to reach victims of abuse with whom they hadn’t previously connected.
She was instrumental in passing domestic violence legislation for stylists through the Tennessee House of Representatives, and continues her advocacy work today.
She hopes to continue broadening this training to reach stylists across Tennessee.
She founded Club Blue, the young professional association that supports BGC. With her drive, Atchley hosted 12 fundraising and networking events last year, and recruited 49 new members who are now monthly donors. She has built this new group of advocates and kept them engaged by driving social media interaction and inspiring volunteer events within the club.
The mission of Boys & Girls Club of Middle Tennessee is to enable young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. It’s a mission Atchley strives to embody.
One of her most successful fundraising events is Dash to a Great Future. Not only did Atchley design the event, but she spearheaded the entire marketing and communications strategy to ensure its success.
Because of her hard work, BGC expects to raise more than $1,000 through this campaign in 2020.
“I love serving Club Blue because it is full of people that care about kids and who they turn into as people,” Atchley says. “They are kind and welcoming, and these are the people that I want mentoring Boys & Girls Club kids so they can grow up to also be successful and giving.”
Volunteers at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt
Sherri Mitchell-Snider volunteers her time as Co-Director of Flashes of Hope at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Flashes of Hope is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating powerful, uplifting portraits of children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
Mitchell-Snider builds capacity for Flashes of Hope by organizing, planning, and coordinating monthly Flashes of Hope photo shoots at the children’s hospital. She partners with local salons, makeup artists, and photographers to create a seamless photoshoot experience for the families, and often organizes up to a dozen family photos in a day.
These photos are then given to the family as a memento of the day. They provide a happy hospital memory for them to treasure forever.
“I love helping to bring some joy into the lives of these very brave children who are going through so much, and to recognize how special and beautiful each and every one of them is,” Mitchell-Snider says.
Katie Beard, a Child Life Specialist at the hospital, says Mitchell-Snider is in a unique position to offer compassionate care for these children because of her own life experience. Mitchell-Snider lost her 1-year-old daughter to Leukemia. Mitchell-Snider recalls wishing she had had the opportunity for a family photoshoot when her daughter was alive. It brings her joy to offer that service to families today.
As guests arrive at The Little Pantry That Could, volunteers like Emily Phan are there to walk with them through the aisles and help them choose the foods they need for the week. Phan has been volunteering with The Little Pantry since she was 12 years old.
The Little Pantry provides produce and shelf-stable items free of charge on a weekly basis to anyone in need, no questions asked. Their volunteers do a variety of tasks, from sorting donations and stocking the shelves to working one-on-one with guests.
Since starting high school, Phan has served more than 200 hours and is a favorite among the guests of The Little Pantry, who often request that she be the one to shop with them.
Working one-on-one with guests is personal and at times overwhelming as volunteers learn about guests’ lives and struggles with food security. However, Phan is always able to lend an ear and give her heart to each guest.
“Talking with the people who come to the pantry for help extends my worldview and teaches me to be grateful for the things I have,” Phan says.
Through her volunteering, Phan has become an incredible spokesperson for The Little Pantry, and is always trying to figure what else she can do for the community members it serves.
Elizabeth Graham Pistole
Volunteers at The Dancing Divas and Dudes
At 13 years old, Elizabeth Pistole had many opportunities to learn teamwork, life skills, and achieve personal goals as a competitive dancer. However, her sister Natalie, who was born with Down Syndrome, was not given the same opportunities as there weren’t any programs that would fit her unique needs.
Five years ago, Pistole recognized this reality after experiencing it secondhand through her sister. She created The Dancing Divas and Dudes, a nonprofit organization that serves the special needs community through dance.
During a session with The Dancing Divas and Dudes, participants work on their physical fitness by improving their balance, technique, and strength. They also spend time learning and perfecting performance pieces that are shared at community events so audiences can experience the abilities and value of individuals with special needs.
Although Pistole is now a full-time college student, she still manages to spend around 30 hours a week scheduling team events and activities, as well as coordinating volunteers.
Pistole’s hard work has allowed for many people with special needs to find their place in society, develop the confidence to excel in life, and ultimately offer them a supportive community.
Back in the spring, due to COVID-19, we postponed the 34th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards until September. Because coronavirus cases locally and nationally continue to rise, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Strobel luncheon. But don’t despair — we are still going to celebrate this year’s outstanding nominees and their impact! We’ll just be doing it digitally, which means you can celebrate those who go above and beyond from wherever you happen to be.
What: We’ll honor this year’s nominees and finalists by sharing their stories of service through written stories and video. Plus we’ll announce the recipients in each of the six award categories.
Are you a nominee? Or a general ticket holder?
If you did not receive an email from our team with information and next steps on what to do as a nominee or a ticket purchaser, feel free to check here, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further assistance.
In mid-2019, Hands On Nashville recognized that an important time was approaching for our city — the 10-year anniversary of the devastating 2010 flood. To commemorate Nashville’s spirit of service then and to look forward to how we could prepare for future disasters, we began planning 10,000 for 10 — a call to action for volunteerism and the kickoff for establishing the Hands On Nashville Disaster Activation Fund.
No one could have predicted what would happen the night of March 2, or the rapid spread of COVID-19 in our community. What we could have predicted is the incredible outpouring of love and support in the form of 26,000-plus volunteers who stepped up to help their neighbors in the aftermath.
While the purpose behind 10,000 for 10 feels more urgent than ever, we recognize the need to pause our events — the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, Hands On Nashville Day, and the HON Day Afterparty —in alignment with Centers for Disease Control recommendations to postpone large-scale gatherings.
We are working on identifying a reschedule date for later this year, and will share information as soon as it is available. If your agency was planning a HON Day project, you had purchased a ticket to the Strobel Awards, or you had signed up to be a volunteer or volunteer leader on HON Day, please know that we will be in touch once we have updated information about the rescheduled events.
It is clearer than ever that HON must be prepared to pivot quickly to meet challenges big, small, and difficult to predict. We’re honored to have your support on that journey.