The awards will celebrate the efforts of 101 volunteers statewide who have strived to improve their communities through service. Miss Tennessee 2017 Caty Davis will present the awards, and NewsChannel5 weekend anchor Jennifer Kraus will serve as emcee for the event.
“Each year, 1.1 million Tennessee volunteers give more than 143 million hours of service, contributing the equivalent of $3.4 billion to Tennessee’s economy. They are the backbone of our great state, and by giving of their time and talents to fulfill needs that would otherwise go unmet, they truly embody the spirit of giving,” said Volunteer Tennessee executive director Jim Snell.
One youth and one adult volunteer were selected from Wilson and other participating counties to receive the prestigious award. Nominees were judged based on the community’s need of the volunteer service performed, initiative taken to perform the service, creativity used to solve a community problem and impact of the volunteer service on the community.
Felecia Wharton is Wilson County’s adult honoree for 2017. For the past 15 or so years, Wharton has spent her Thanksgivings organizing and working with members of her church, Market Street Church of Christ, to serve meals to families and members of the community who didn’t have meals or family with which to eat.
Hundreds of people get free meals and fellowship each year on a day when they may not have otherwise. Wharton helps cook food, organize volunteers, take orders, schedule and organize deliveries and greet guests. It’s also the only place that gives free Thanksgiving meals to those less fortunate each Thanksgiving in Lebanon.
Wharton also started a clothing giveaway in 2017 at the church. She coordinates donations of clothes for men, women and children throughout the community and her church and offers these giveaways at least once, but sometimes multiple times, each month at Market Street Church of Christ.
Marti Taylor, 17, a student at Friendship Christian School is Wilson County’s 2017 youth honoree. Her teacher, Greg Armstrong, who is also a past Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award winner in Wilson County, nominated Taylor. The Wilson County committee selected Taylor for the honor for her work with special needs children, food drives, Thanksgiving meals for people in Hancock County and a local homeless ministry. Taylor works with Run4Water by volunteering her time both locally and globally helping to solve the water crisis in the world and was instrumental in beginning ‘84 days,’ a women’s ministry that provides feminine hygiene products to women in need. Because of Taylor’s initiative, 84 Days provided feminine hygiene products to women and girls in Uganda, Kenya, Nicaragua and in the U.S. The 84 Days program provides hygiene products, teaches self-defense and health and sanitation when applicable. It also strives to provide micro business opportunities for women.
The Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards also includes business and nonprofit categories. One business and one nonprofit were selected from each of Tennessee’s three grand regions for their outstanding community involvement and service. The business honorees include DENSO Manufacturing, East Tennessee business honoree; CMT, Middle Tennessee business honoree; and Buckman, West Tennessee business honoree. The nonprofit honorees include Of One Accord Ministry, East Tennessee nonprofit honoree; Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee, Middle Tennessee nonprofit honoree; and Shelby Farms Park, West Tennessee nonprofit honoree.
Volunteer Tennessee coordinates the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards at the state level. Volunteer Tennessee is the 25-member bipartisan citizen board appointed by the governor to oversee AmeriCorps and service-learning programs and to advance volunteerism and citizen service to solve community problems in the Volunteer State.
The Wilson County Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards nominating committee is sponsored by the Wilson County mayor’s office. The committee is made up of Lebanon Democrat editor Jared Felkins, United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland president John McMillin, Sara Davenport with the Wilson County mayor’s office and Wilson County Schools Youth Links director Lisa Dickson. Wilson Bank & Trust sponsored plaques for each nominee this year.