Rollins and James to be honored by Governor
Several years ago, Volunteer Tennessee initiated the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards, a program designed to recognize the outstanding service of those who volunteer in various ways throughout their local Tennessee communities. This year, one youth and one adult in each county will be recognized by Governor Bill Haslam. The 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 Great State of Tennessee. This state has a longtime legacy of service, named ‘The Volunteer State’ almost 200 years ago,” said Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady.
“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 our state heritage. In fact, the annual value of Tennessee volunteers is $3.4 billion,” continued Brady. “As the Volunteer State, we 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 Mayors 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.”
Prior honorees of these prestigious awards include Angie Burnett and Tyler Brown (2008), Brenda Campbell and Jordan Hill (2009), Betty Campbell, Tommy Curtis, Hobbs Hill Youth Group (2010), Y. B. Ashby and Zachary Gallagher (2012), Steve and Karen Wickham, Kaelyn Roach (2013), Wanda Bell and A. J. Posey (2014-2015), Ray Winton and Chynna Fults (2015-2016), and Roxanna Fults and Hunter Ladd (2016-2017).
The 2017-2018 Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award Honoree in the adult category is Thomas Rollins. Rollins and his wife live in Altamont. His nomination reads as follows:
“Thomas Rollins service began over 75 years ago as he entered into the military as a very young man right in the middle of WWII. This Memorial Day found him placing American Flags on the graves of the 60 Veterans in his hometown cemetery as he has done faithfully for nearly two decades. This cemetery adjoins ‘The Old Place’ where Rollins grew up. He has grown a huge garden there for years that family and friends have enjoyed. People know they are welcome to come pick greens there. Recently he picked and delivered them to more than one cancer victim that he knows. His cheerful visits do good like a medicine! It’s a regular routine for him to stop on his way to church and deliver potatoes, meat, and vegetables to someone in need.
“Rollins and his wife, Mary, have been married for almost 70 years and have attended and supported the same church all of that time. Thomas has served there as teacher, elder, deacon, and encourager. Generations of children have sat on his lap and grown up claiming him as their Pa. His profound love of children is an important part of Thomas’ life prompting him to donate generously to St. Jude’s Research Hospital for 30 years.
“Rollins wears his Army uniform to participate in various patriotic events and speak to many schools. He speaks to the children about history and the value of education. He always reminds them that they are the future leaders of America.
“When he served as Scout Master, he led many hikes through the forests of Grundy County and had numerous fishing trips. Along with Scout Master, Thomas served his community as fireman, alderman, and director on the Farm Bureau. He held an office in the local American Legion for 60 years, and was on the first Grundy County Planning Committee. He is a member of The Grundy County Veteran’s Association where he has the honor of nominating ‘Veteran of the Year.’” Many of these service members have told Rollins that he was their mentor. He has also served on two local cemetery committees with his presence, donations, and physical labor.”
The 2017-18 Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award Honoree in the youth category is Kendale James. James is a 15-year-old honor student at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School. James and her parents Dale and Lisa James and brother, Kayson, live in Tracy City. She is the granddaughter of Buddy and Teresa Wiggins and Larry and Susan James. She is a member of the varsity volleyball team, clock operator for both the middle school and high school basketball teams, and an asset to the musical and technical theatre programs. She also has aspirations of becoming a Marine Biologist and recently applied to the Teen Volunteer Program at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. Kendale is responsible for not only initiating, but also implementing, a county-wide program that benefits children.
As part of the curriculum at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School, all upper school students are required to obtain 15 hours of community service per year. Between her school and sports schedule, she was having a difficult time finding opportunities that did not interfere with her schedule. She heard about a children’s program in some of the surrounding areas and loved the idea so she began doing some investigating. An email was composed to Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum asking if Grundy County had such a program.
James named her program “Buddy Bears.” This program as she explains, “collects new or very gently used small stuffed animals for officers to carry in their patrol cars.”
The bears or animals are then given to small children that have experienced, or are experiencing, a traumatic event. These events could be a car accident, house fire, being removed from the home, or just being a witness to an event that scares them.
Sheriff Shrum quickly responded that Grundy County did not have such a program in place, but was happy to get on board.
At this point, James began collecting boxes, making fliers, and approaching community businesses to see if they would allow her to leave a box and name them as a drop-off location. She obtained permission from businesses and community members throughout the county. She began to advertise via Facebook and the response was overwhelming. The local newspaper put James and Sheriff Shrum in the paper to promote the program and “Buddy Bears” was up and running.
The partnership between the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office and James has proven to be a successful one. “Buddy Bears” benefits the entire county and any visitors that meet with unexpected circumstances. In the first three months, over 500 animals were collected. Due to limited storage space, James asked for, and was granted, permission from Monteagle Police Chief, Virgil McNeese, to make donations to the Monteagle Police Department which patrols in both Grundy and Marion Counties. Donations have slowed tremendously so James no longer makes rounds to collect bears, but gladly accepts donations when requested.
“It is an honor to recognize Mr. Rollins and Ms. James as the Grundy County Honorees for the Governor’s Volunteer of the Year. Mr. Rollins is a true patriot, through serving our country as a young soldier in WWII to being a true champion for our local veterans and their families at the young age of 91. Whether it’s serving on committees, plowing someone’s garden, or being the unofficial life guard at the local swimming hole, Mr. Rollins delights in serving others. His Servant’s Heart makes him a worthy honoree. Ms. James has exhibited, at a very early age the wonderful traits of giving back to the community and a heart of wanting to make a difference. We are so thankful for all of our volunteers,” concluded Brady.