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Volunteers from 35 counties, including Lincoln County, were honored at the Fifth Annual Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards ceremony at the Cool Springs Marriott in Franklin.
The awards celebrated the efforts of 65 volunteers statewide who strive to improve their communities through service.
Mary Jane Porter and Jessica Swedenburg of Lincoln County were among those recognized.
In a video address to the honorees, Gov. Bill Haslam said, “On behalf of all Tennesseans, I want to say thank you for your contributions in so many different ways. You go above and beyond the call of duty. Tennessee is a better state because of what you do.”
One youth and one adult volunteer were selected from participating counties to receive this 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.
Mary Jane Porter was the Lincoln County adult honoree.
Through her elected position as Lincoln County Trustee, Mary Jane helps many elderly Lincoln County citizens qualify for tax relief. She also uses her position to serve the community by finding assistance through various churches and civil organizations for those she learns are in need.
Mary Jane is a member of several organizations: Board of Directors of Fayetteville Main Street, Fayetteville/Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, of which she is also a past president, and Fayetteville/Lincoln County Senior Citizens and a graduate of Leadership Lincoln. She serves as a member and past president of the Fayetteville Kiwanis Club. Mary Jane plays piano at the Howell Cumberland services and is also the nursery room Sunday school teacher there.
Since 1988, Mary Jane has played piano and sung in the annual cancer fundraiser, The Fabulous Fifties Show, which has raised over a million dollars since its inception.
All of Mary Jane’s activities are done with a smile on her face and a bounce in her step. Whenever Mary Jane is part of something, she gives her all.
Jessica Swedenburg is the Lincoln County youth honoree. Jessica is a senior honor student at Lincoln County High School. She is the president of the school’s Skills USA organization and raises funds to support the organization’s many activities and scholarship fund for graduating members.
In addition to her activities in support of Skills USA, Jessica volunteered at the local recycling center, which ultimately resulted in part-time employment. She has also supported the local chapter of the American Heart Association in preparation for the annual Heart Walk which raises funds for research in prevention and curing heart disease.
She has supported many working parents by providing no-cost babysitting services for several young children. She has provided these services in the late afternoons and early evenings on workdays and on Sunday afternoons for the parents to work or simply have a break.
Jessica will be attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Even though undecided on her future plans, she will still be dedicated to serving others in a very productive way.
“Each year, 1.2 million Tennessee volunteers give more than 121 million hours of service, contributing the equivalent of $2.6 billion to Tennessee’s economy. They are the backbone of our great state, and by giving of their time and talents to fulfill needs which would otherwise go unmet, they embody the spirit of giving,” said Volunteer Tennessee Executive Director, Jim Snell.
Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, gave a keynote address in honor of the awardees. She noted that 1.2 million Tennessee volunteers give more than 121 million hours of service each year, contributing the equivalent of $2.6 billion to Tennessee’s economy. Miss Tennessee 2012, Chandler Lawson, presented the awards, and NewsChannel5 weekend anchor, Jennifer Kraus, served as emcee for the event.
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.