Tag Archives: Strobel Disaster Relief 2022

Strobel Finalists 2022: Disaster Relief

Congratulations to these three finalists in the Disaster Relief category of the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until April 30 at the button below!

Hispanic Outreach Task Force
(Marcela Gomez)

Hispanic Outreach Task Force
Volunteers with Hands On Nashville, offers assistance to Latino community in need

In the aftermath of the March 2021 flood, south Nashville was in particular need of disaster relief. While there were many volunteer organizations making recovery efforts at the time, it was quickly realized that a task force of community members who could understand and navigate the cultural nuances of the largely Latino community was needed. This task force consisted of Diane Janbakhsh, Jennifer Novo, Veronica Selcedo, Wendy Silva, Karla Vazaquez and Veronica Zavaleta, all well-known and influential community members. The team immediately crafted a plan to reach members of the Latino community who were in need and let them know that relief was available.

Before the Hispanic Outreach Task Force was assembled, only a handful of Latino residents felt comfortable reaching out for help; after several outreach events and media pushes conducted by the team, over 300 requests for disaster relief from homeowners and renters in the area were received, allowing volunteers to mobilize and help residents. Without this task force, many members of the Latino community in south Nashville would not have had a trusted avenue to reach out for help with disaster recovery. Although the members of the task force didn’t expect any recognition for their work, they are honored to be nominated. “Offering the talents and skills life has given you for the service of others is an honor,” said Marcela Gomez, who was instrumental in assembling the task force. “You don’t volunteer with the mindset that you will get something back; you volunteer because you are grateful to be alive.”


Emergency Support Unit volunteers

Emergency Support Unit
Nashville Office of Emergency Management

During Nashville’s tremendous rainfall and historic flash flooding in March 2021, crews were quickly needed to help rescue residents who had been trapped in dangerous situations. That’s when the Emergency Support Unit (ESU), a team of roughly 30 community members ranging from CEOs to teachers, mobilized. This team volunteered their extensive training to help Nashvillians in need.

When Nashville started flooding, this team, several of whom are trained specifically in flood and swift-water response, put their skills to use and saved dozens of lives. The ESU conducted numerous home, vehicle and high-water rescues. When a Metro Nashville police officer was swept from his vehicle during the night and into rushing, debris-filled, 20-foot-deep water, the ESU team conducted an emergency rescue in the dark, saving the officer’s life.

“ESU volunteers are dedicated to serve their community and its citizens during their time of need during emergency and non-emergency incidents that affect our community,” said a representative from the Office of Emergency Management. “This is a great honor for us.”


Joe Gaines

Joe Gaines
Volunteers with Waverly Flood Survivors and Westminster Presbyterian Church

Joe Gaines has been an active disaster relief volunteer since Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005. He volunteered to help during Nashville’s 2010 flood, and after the 2020 tornadoes in Putnam and Davidson Counties. When flooding devastated Waverly, Tenn., Gaines’s actions were no different – he jumped in to help.

Since the August flooding, Gaines and his team have worked on 12 homes impacted by the storms. His team works on the most severely damaged homes, the ones many other teams walk away from. What makes Gaines’s work special is he recognizes these houses are more than damaged buildings, they’re people’s homes. When on site it’s a priority of his to introduce volunteers to the home owners to show just how important their work is.

“I feel that there is a call to help others in their time of need,” Gaines said. “I also enjoy hands-on labor and the fellowship of my fellow volunteers. My life has been rewarded by seeing the appreciation of those we help.”

Gaines is tireless, and works with a quiet determination and thorough knowledge of his skill set. After the attention has diverted from Waverly and the resources have dwindled, he’s remained dedicated to the flood victims. He continues to gather a crew two days a month to help those who have lost so much, and is often found working long after other volunteers have headed home.

He is the heart of his group, and the motivation to keep everyone positive throughout the day. He says he’s fortunate to work with his fellow members at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and continue their long tradition of service.

To see a full list of the nominees for the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.