By Meg Dickens
Volunteer work is a large part of what allows a community to flourish. Some organizations in Johnson County, such as Heritage Hall Theatre and the Johnson County Senior Center, rely heavily on volunteer work to function. And, for a good reason. Volunteer work is a large part of what allows a community to flourish.Since 2008, Volunteer Tennessee has offered a platform to recognize exceptional volunteer work, the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award (GVSA). Taylor Parsons and Leni Ede Smith will receive this honor for Johnson County in 2019.
“I think it’s important that we recognize these volunteers for their service,” said Johnson County GVSA Coordinator Danielle Pleasant. “So many programs in Johnson County are simply impossible without volunteers.”
Each of Tennessee’s 95 counties selects a youth and adult recipient for the GVSA. County coordinators follow the GVSA County Resource Guide’s guidelines to choose team members and judges, decide on what type of volunteer work to celebrate, and sort through nominations. The Governor’s award criteria categories are need, action, innovation, and impact. All nominees must impact their community or the state of Tennessee and cannot be paid for services rendered. According to Volunteer East Tennessee, the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award is the highest honor a volunteer can receive in Tennessee.
Youth Recipient Taylor Parsons
Taylor Parsons is a senior at Johnson County High School. She is involved in many school activities, including student council, Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA), the National Honor Society, the National Technical Honor Society, Ethics Club, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, 4-H club, basketball, and tennis. Parsons also teaches children at First Baptist Church and is the spokesperson and ambassador for both the Children’s Miracle Network and the Youth Engagement Lead for the American Red Cross of Tennessee.
Parsons, currently Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen, is a beauty queen who uses her position to help others. Her platform, The Color Red, helps educate and advocate for the difference that blood donations make. Parsons coordinated a blood drive through HOSA and Marsh Regional Blood Center, which collected enough donations to save 108 lives.
Adult Recipient Leni Ede Smith
Leni Ede Smith’s volunteer work focuses mostly on youth. She participates in Beta Theta Club, Delta Kappa Gamma, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and Bread, the Imagination Library, and partners with the Johnson County Young Artists and Heritage Hall. Through these organizations, Smith helps children learn while supporting their dreams and providing any type of need-based support possible.
Smith helps feed those in need with St. Anthony’s Bread. This food pantry serves more than 500 families per month. Smith supports learning through her work with the Imagination Library. She heads the Imagination Library, which brings fun and learning together while raising funds.
These recipients use their good deeds to inspire and impact the community. Smith and Parsons will attend the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards ceremony in Franklin, Tennessee, on Sunday, February 9. Nominations start each year in October. Keep an eye out for postings in the Tomahawk or on the UT Extension Office’s Facebook page at ExtensionJohnsonCounty. Congratulations, Taylor Parsons and Leni Ede Smith.