NASHVILLE—The 12th annual Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards ceremony will honor volunteers from 69 counties Feb. 9 in Franklin.  

The awards will celebrate the efforts of 115 volunteers statewide who have strived to improve their communities through service. Miss Tennessee Volunteer 2019 Kerri Arnold will present the awards, and NewsChannel5 weekend anchor Jennifer Kraus will serve as emcee for the event.  

One youth and one adult volunteer were selected from 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. The individual awards are sponsored by Community Care of Rutherford County and Tennessee 4-H.

Charles Black was chosen as the Davidson County adult honoree. At Dismas House, Black serves as a mentor, board member, ambassador and driver who takes clients recently released from incarceration to the residential program. Black makes clients feel welcomed and safe, as he was once a client there himself. During Black’s time at Dismas, he used the organization’s programs, and now has a job, an apartment, his driver’s license and his own car. His successful re-entry into society gives residents confidence that they too can realize success. Any time Black visits the house, he checks in with residents and staff, making sure residents have his contact information. By serving on the mentoring committee, Black provides insight and helps his fellow committee members gain an understanding of best practices. Black gives selflessly and often to provide care for the men of Dismas House.

Lily Hensiek is the Davidson County youth honoree. At 7, Hensiek was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She struggled to understand the diagnosis, so her doctor at Vanderbilt offered an analogy to explain. Cancer is like a weed growing in a garden, and chemotherapy is needed to kill the weeds so flowers can bloom. The garden analogy stuck, and the Lily’s Garden initiative was created, establishing two funds to support pediatric cancer research and training for the children’s hospital, Lily’s Garden Endowed Lecture in Childhood Cancer and the Lily’s Garden Research Fund. Hensiek’s fundraising goal was $1 million. She met and surpassed it through family support, fundraisers and donors. The funds support guest lectures and research opportunities in pediatric hematology-oncology. Her family also established a separate endowment to fully fund a named fellowship. At 15, Hensiek’s weeds returned, but she was ready to face them head on. For the past year, Hensiek has been off her chemotherapy treatments and attends regular clinic visits. Now a freshman at the University of South Carolina, Hensiek works toward raising $15 million for Lily’s Garden.

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 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, East Tennessee business honoree; Southeast Venture, Middle Tennessee business honoree; and Medtronic, West Tennessee business honoree. The business awards are sponsored by Advance Financial. The nonprofit honorees include Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, East Tennessee nonprofit honoree; Nashville Conflict Resolution Center, Middle Tennessee nonprofit honoree; and Beautiful Spirited Women, West Tennessee nonprofit honoree. The nonprofit awards are sponsored by Friends of Volunteer Tennessee.

“Each year, 1.6 million Tennessee volunteers give more than 137 million hours of service, contributing the equivalent of $3.3 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.

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.

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