In 2008, Volunteer Tennessee initiated the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards, a recognition program designed to recognize the outstanding service of those who volunteer in various ways throughout their local Tennessee communities. This year two award recipients, one youth and one adult in each county will be recognized once again in Franklin, TN by Governor Bill Haslam. This celebration will illustrate the importance of civic participation and service to improve overall community norms.
The event was developed to recognize the unsung heroes from across the State of Tennessee that has a longtime legacy of service and was named “The Volunteer State” almost 200 years ago. These volunteers play a critical role in the success of Tennessee communities across the state. Through nonprofit organizations, national service programs, faith-based organizations, and neighbor helping neighbor, outstanding volunteer service is part of Tennessee state heritage. In fact, the annual value of Tennessee volunteers is $3.4 billion. As the Volunteer State, citizens must continue to foster this sense of service and civic responsibility. In an effort to encourage more Grundy County citizens to help improve our community through volunteerism, Volunteer Tennessee has instituted this statewide volunteer recognition program, the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards.
“The Grundy County Mayor’s Office is happy to help organize and promote Volunteerism in Grundy County, while recognizing the efforts of those who go above and beyond the call of duty every day by making a difference in the lives of others,” said Grundy County Mayor Lonnie Cleek.
The process began with a call for nominations in the Grundy County Herald. Prior Grundy County winners of the awards volunteered to serve on the approval committee by independently reading each nomination and scoring the nominations. Those numbers were put together in order to get a winner of the 2014 Grundy County Governors Volunteer Stars Award. However, this year there was only one nomination sent in to the Mayor’s office in both the adult and youth divisions.
The winner of the 2014 Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award in the Adult category is the husband and wife team Stephen and Karen Wickham, who are working diligently to reverse diabetes in our county and beyond. The nomination for Mr. and Mrs. Wickham reads: “Karen and her husband Steve are both registered nurses and have dedicated their lives to helping others. Steve is a full time RN at Emerald Hodgson in Sewanee, TN and Karen is a volunteer and an active member in their church.
About a year and a half ago, Karen, was reading the paper and saw that the health council was looking for members. She contacted the council and attended the next meeting. During the meeting it was discussed that there was a grant opportunity from Marshall University and asked if anyone was interested in applying. At the end of the meeting Karen approached Tonya Garner and asked to look at the grant and that is where it all began. She and her husband had just finished a Reversing Diabetes Class in South Pittsburg and were passionate about educating the community on the disease and ways to possibly reverse it. Karen spent endless hours gathering data, writing objectives and getting letters of support from the community. The grant application was turned in and $160,000 was awarded to the county for Diabetes Prevention and Control.
In the past year Karen has attended numerous health council meetings and has been instrumental in planning and implementing strategies to better the health of the county. Karen along with her husband has offered three Reversing Diabetes Seminars throughout the county, which consisted of 6 weeks of once a week classes followed by six months of once a month classes. During the classes a light meal was provided and served by volunteers that Karen had set up. They have also offered a mini reversing diabetes in the county.
Karen also headed up the physical activities subcommittee and with the help of other member implemented ACTIV8 Grundy. Through this initiative she set up activities partnering with the Friends of South Cumberland and getting the community up and active while cleaning the Fiery Gizzard. Karen decided to apply for a grant from the Community Fund of the South Cumberland Plateau and was awarded the grand to purchase an A1C tester unit, which made it easier on the participants to the class to have their sugar tested. She worked with Friends of the South Cumberland and the state parks to leverage monies to put in new playground equipment at the park in Tracy City. She also assists in serving healthy, diabetic friendly samples to the Food Bank of Tuesdays.
Since February, Karen has written about 42 health articles for the Grundy County Herald. She always includes activities going on in the community and ways for people to get healthier. The list of things that this power couple does for this community could go on and on. They are relentless when it comes to working for this community. They are dedicated to sharing the knowledge that they work so hard to gain and have helped countless individuals lower their sugar levels. There are many success stories throughout our county. Together they have dedicated over 750 hours of their precious time and energy to this project. The nominator stated that there is no one in this county that deserves this award more than this couple.
The winner of the 2014 Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award in the Youth category is Ms. Kaelyn Rachel Roach of Pelham. Angie Burnett nominated Ms. Roach and stated that her whole life revolved around service. “I can say, without a doubt, that Kaelyn is one of the most amazing young people that I have had the honor to know. She has wonderful parents that have been very supportive of their child. Kaelyn’s character is outstanding. She has a very positive demeanor and is a positive role model to her peers. She has the willingness to accept challenges and see them through to conclusion. She gives back to her community in so many ways.
Kaelyn attends church at First United Methodist Church in Tracy City, where she serves her church in many ways, such as volunteer leader, community trash pickups, volunteer leader for the Summer Vacation Bible School program, teacher in peer-led classes for junior high students, and many more. Kaelyn is truly an asset to her church. She works tirelessly to help our youth ministry and in so many other helpful ways. Kaelyn volunteers faithfully with the Pelham Fire Department. She helps with every community event in our community. Whether there is a wreck that needs traffic support, a fire, or a fire department fundraiser, she is always there. Kaelyn also volunteers at various community events, such as the annual St. Jude Children’s Hospital weekend. Kaelyn has been volunteering and raising money for the Kids at St. Jude since she was two years old. She started out by calling family members and asking for donations to send to the hospital. During the county-wide fundraiser, she works concession, cleans up the park, runs the homerun balls, keeps scorebooks for the games, works community roadblocks and will help out in any way that she is needed.
This past summer Kaelyn attended the Campus Outreach Mountain Project. This is just the surface of Kaelyn’s volunteer involvement. She has the true heart of a volunteer and is a wonderful mentor to younger children, encouraging others to give back. She is not only a caring and warm young woman, she is also very intelligent and displays great organizational skills and works great with the public in a very professional way. She spent the summer in East Tennessee to do mission work through Campus Outreach Mountain Project. Throughout the week they have regular jobs that they go to. After work, they have Word Training, which is studying and learning how to effectively study the Bible, Evangelism Training, and then on Saturday nights they go out in pairs and spread out throughout the city to walk the streets and attractions and share the Gospel with strangers.
Kaelyn is very involved in many school activities. She has always been very proactive in all of her endeavors. She is very well-rounded as she has played on the women’s golf team, been a member of the school’s drama class, Charter Member of the Grundy County High School SADD chapter, Leadership Grundy and many other clubs and organizations, all of this, while working very hard to keep up her grades. She always gives 110% in everything that she does. She just completed her first year at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. She is the first to attend college in her immediate family. I am sure that she is hoping to start a tradition of college graduates, starting with her.
She has always exhibited leadership ability. Her driving force is her love of God, her excitement about life, her love of people, and her determination to make a difference,“ said Burnett.