Volunteers from 53 counties, including two local volunteers, will be honored this weekend at the ninth annual Governor's Volunteer Stars Awards ceremony in Franklin.
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 Wilson County adult honoree is Tina Wilke. In addition to being actively involved in the ministry of Faith Lutheran Church in Lebanon, Wilke dedicates hours of volunteer service for the Girl Scouts and the Middle Tennessee Chapter of Project Linus, where she has held a leadership role since 2001. The mission of Project Linus is to provide love, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need through the gift of new, handmade blankets crafted by volunteers. Wilke gives an estimated 500 hours of her time annually to create and distribute blankets. She organizes "blanket days" in various locations, coordinates the collection of supplies and sewing machines and supervises the work of other volunteers. Since 2011, the chapter has donated blankets to about 25,000 children in Tennessee and around the world.
Nine-year-old Mikayla Tobin is Wilson County's youth honoree. A student at Lakeview Elementary School, Tobin started volunteering with the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee (DSAMT) in 2013. Her passion for volunteering with individuals with Down syndrome continues to grow. Each summer, Tobin volunteers at the DSAMT Creative Arts Camp, where she is assigned a group of campers, other peers and a camp counselor. She is an exceptional peer model for the campers and participates in the activities demonstrating appropriate behavior, helps campers gather their materials and interacts and builds friendships with the campers. Occasionally, Tobin volunteers for other events, such as the Buddy Walk and the Family Picnic at the Zoo.
"Each year, 1.1 million Tennessee volunteers give more than 143 million hours of service, contributing the equivalent of $3.4 billion to Tennessee's economy," Volunteer Tennessee Executive Director Jim Snell said. "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."
Volunteer Tennessee coordinates the Governor's Volunteer Stars Awards at the state level. It is a 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 Tennessee.
Wilke, Tobin and other award winners will be honored during a ceremony on Sunday at the Franklin Marriot Cool Springs. Miss Tennessee 2016 Grace Burgess will present the awards, and NewsChannel5 weekend anchor Jennifer Kraus will serve as the event's emcee.