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The Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards

The Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards recognize Middle Tennessee volunteers who give their time and talents to improve the community. For more than 30 years, the awards ceremony have ben Middle Tennessee’s largest annual celebration of volunteerism.

Hosted by Hands On Nashville in partnership with the Strobel family, the Awards honor the spirit of service demonstrated by Mary Catherine Strobel. Read more about the story behind the ceremony.

2017 Award Recipients

The 31st annual award ceremony took place on April 19, 2017. Read a recap and view photos from the event, and click here to view all nominees.

Laura Little
Capacity-building volunteer award

Brentwood Baptist Church - Medical Dental Unit
Civic volunteer group award

FYKES Realty Group
Corporate volunteerism award 

Olivia Wright
Direct service volunteer award (ages 5 to 20)

Terry Key
Direct service volunteer award (ages 21 to 49)

Lillian Schklar
Direct service volunteer award (ages 50+)




2017 Award Nominees

Congratulations to all of the amazing volunteers who were nominated for the 2017 Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Finalists are noted with an asterisk (*).


Capacity-building volunteer award

Honors individuals who provide significant operational or administrative support to a nonprofit agency, faith-based ministry or community organization, or developed an innovative approach to significantly improve an existing program.

Robert Brandt
Melanie Burnett
Jenny Charles
Elayne Crain
Ann Fundis*
Garry Gibson
Annie Goodhue
Sonya Mansfield Ross
Jennifer Hoffman
Josh Hubbard
Rick Jansen
Charlene Jones
Martha Lingley
Laura Little*
Dr. Ginny Moore*
Anne Morgan
John Noel
Rose Redus
Patrick Sims
Cris Whitlock


Civic Volunteer Group Award

Recognizes representatives of civic, membership, faith-based or non-corporate groups that volunteer together for a specific cause or issue.

Brentwood Baptist Church - Medical Dental Unit*
Crossroads Campus, Caring Connection*
Cheryl's List - A Division of the 510 Foundation
Nashville Humane Society
NHA Silver Socializers
Sew & So
Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Trans Buddy Program*
Whites Creek


Corporate Volunteerism Award

Pays tribute to businesses that have robust employee volunteer programs with high levels of participation and impact.

AmecFoster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure, Inc.
CAT Financial Young Professionals
ChanceLight Behavioral Health, Therapy & Education
Dell Nashville*
FYKES Realty Group*
HCA (Nashville Adult Literacy Council)
HCA (Second Harvest)*
HCA (Special Kids)
Jackson in Action 
Public District 0323


Direct Service Volunteer Award (ages five to 20)

Recognizes individuals who have contributed significant volunteer time, energy, and/or resources to help an agency’s constituents.  

David Charlton
Parkhurst Children
Sanjaly Geevarghese
Karen Goldsmith
Tim Kelly
Hannah Kimbro*
Jordyn Lesh*
Margot May
Madi & Lara Nunn
Celine Phaon
Soteria Reid
Abby Sparrow
Annaclaire Stipe
Sam Strang
Avery Taylor
Olivia Wright*


Direct Service Volunteer Award (Ages 21 to 49)

Recognizes individuals who have contributed significant volunteer time, energy, and/or resources to help an agency’s constituents.

John Adcock
Dilsia Alfaro
Lisa Avrit
Nick Gambill
Rodney Harris
Jessica Hill 
Terry Key*
Laura Little
Deanna Loveland
Anna-Vija McClain
Megan McInnis
Anna Marie Nordgren*
Jami Oakey
Grace Oaks
Allison Plattsmier
Whitney Presley
Noah Raper*
Dr. Jaime Romero
Cristie Sanborn
Julia Shaeffer
Aria Stiles 
Lauren Stone
Becky Sullivan
Katie Umberg
TiAndrea Watkins


Direct Service Volunteer Award (Ages 50 plus)

Recognizes individuals who have contributed significant volunteer time, energy, and/or resources to help an agency’s constituents.

Marilyn Bagford
Mack Barrett
Patricia Beard
Linda Bodfish*
Lisa Booker
Robert Brandt
Margaret Campbelle-Holman
Don Cornwell
Jennifer Cox
Charlie Cunningham
Deborah Edmondson
Joe First
Jerry Grant
Laurie Green*
Rachel Hallums
Diana Hiatt
Lori Hines
Glenna Hoke
Donice Kaufman-Stewart
Marlin Keel 
Pam Kimbro
Carrol Kleinschmidt
Robert Light
Joseph Manners 
Bettie Markham
Syd Mayberry
Edward McClarty 
Sue Medcalf
Judi Medford
Pat Morris
Faye Parker
Bart Perkey
Lillian Schklar*
Mark and Karen Strakbein
Ellen Tighe
Lester Turner
Sue Varboncoeur
Pam Wegenka
Carol Whitcore
Robert Wilkins
Sherrie Williams
Faye Wyatt
Vicki Young
Vickie Young

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About Mary Catherine Schweiss Strobel

Mary Catherine Schweiss Strobel was born in Nashville on August 20, 1912, and grew up in the city’s old Germantown neighborhood – a humble, close knit community where people took care of one another. She is best remembered and honored in Middle Tennessee for her tireless, joyful commitment to those in need: the poor, the sick, the homeless and the helpless.

Mary Catherine was the daughter of Mary Magdalene Sullivan and Henry Charles Schweiss, Jr. When she was just a baby a gas stove exploded in the family home while her father was away. Her mother was killed in the blaze, but Mary Catherine was saved by a neighbor. She and her father moved in with his family – a cadre of German-American aunts, uncles and cousins. In this way, an only child became a cherished member of a large, boisterous and giving clan.

These early experiences were powerful influences. Naturally gregarious and open, Mary Catherine came to see everyone she encountered as “family,” and never met a stranger. She grew up among people without power or influence. Yet in her eyes, the life of her community was overflowing with abundance because those who surrounded her were willing to give everything they had to one another.

She was keen to follow their example. As a very young child, she would ask her father for money to buy food for poor neighbors, and collected useful items to deliver around the neighborhood. Mary Catherine’s approach to giving throughout her life was exclusively hands on. Her car was a rolling general store with supplies of food, clothes, funeral wreaths, shoes, books, newspapers for paper drives and other goods for the needy. Her typical day might involve visiting several hospitals, assisting at a soup kitchen, attending a funeral, and taking clothing to people in need, whom she always referred to as “friends.”

A lifelong and devout Catholic, Mary Catherine’s good works were not confined to a single religion or race. She opened her arms to the human race, yet her approach was always personal, always one-to-one. And she gave her greatest gifts freely: her time; her love; her faith; and her good humor.

Mary Catherine also made Nashville history. In 1937, she married Martin George Strobel, an employee of the Nashville Fire Department. Ten years later, when she was 35 and a mother of four young children, Martin died of a heart attack. Knowing that Mary Catherine now faced providing for the children and two elderly aunts alone, Chief Henry Demonbruen broke precedent and offered her a job in the Fire Marshal’s office. She thus became the first female employee of the Nashville Fire Department, and the only one for the next 29 years.

On a cold December afternoon in 1986 while shopping at a department store in downtown Nashville, Mary Catherine was kidnapped and murdered by a convict escaped from a prison in the Midwest. In the aftermath came a profound outpouring of love and appreciation from the Nashville community she had cherished. In 1987, the Metro Council renamed its Fire Prevention Hall the “Mary Catherine Schweiss Strobel Fire Prevention Bureau Building.” And in April 1987, Nashville’s United Way honored her memory with the first annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer of the Year Award. Now run by Hands On Nashville, and having been a community staple for more than 30 years, the awards honor volunteers from throughout Middle Tennessee who quietly and selflessly give to others every day of their lives.

Mary Catherine would have been so proud of the many extraordinary volunteers who have been nominated for and presented with the award given in her name - and so grateful to everyone at Hands On Nashville. And she would no doubt have considered them part of her family, that ever-widening circle of Nashvillians whose greatest desire in life is to extend a hand to others.

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