Holding true to its nickname, Tennessee will recognize volunteers from all over the state for their service to the community when the 11th Annual Governor’s Volunteer Star Awards are presented today during a ceremony in Franklin.
The awards celebrate the efforts of 108 volunteers statewide who have strived to improve their communities through service. Among this year’s recipients in Claude Morris, who was chosen as the adult honoree from Coffee County.
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.
“I was very humbled when I found out that I won the award,” said Morse.
Kimberly King, who is in charge of the Manchester VFW Post 10904, nominated Morse for the award. Morse is a member of the post and helped coordinate the Toy Soldier project to collect 58,479 toy soldiers, one for every person killed in the Vietnam War.
“Claude is involved in so many organizations,” said King. “He’s not just a member of those organizations though. He’s normally the coordinator. There’s quite a big difference between being a member and the coordinator with the level of work that’s required. Claude reports massive amounts of volunteer time. He always goes after a project with all he has. He’s a great guy.”
Morse is involved with several nonprofit organizations throughout Coffee County. Honor Flight, Project Appleseed and the Arnold Community Council are just a few of the organizations to which Morse devotes his time and efforts.
According to its website, Honor Flight is a nationwide nonprofit program that takes eligible World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veterans on a free trip to see war memorials in Washington, D.C.
The Honor Flight makes two trips per year with approximately 50 veterans and their guests onboard. Through an application process, veterans are chosen to go on the Honor Flight. World War II veterans get top priority, followed by Korean War veterans.
Morse serves as the president and chairman of the board for Honor Flight of Middle Tennessee. This past year he sponsored 65 people and, on the last flight alone, spent over 60 hours of volunteer work.
Another program that Morse works diligently on is Project Appleseed.
The nonprofit program aims to teach people of all ages the skills used during the American Revolution, specifically the history behind the first battle of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.
Over a course of two days, individuals will learn to hone in on their rifle shooting to become skilled marksmen. The program supplies the rifles in a safe environment for those who want to learn more about using the guns. The program is also open to those who are not interested in shooting, but to learn more about the history behind the guns.
In addition, Morse also serves on the Arnold Community Council (ACC).
Established in 2000, the goal of the ACC is to promote, protect and preserve the Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) and to facilitate interaction and cooperation between the complex and surrounding communities.
To accomplish its mission, members of the council visit the Tennessee Congressional delegation and key members of Congress each year and co-sponsor an event with members of the Tennessee Legislature. During the first week of April, ACC members will be taking a trip to the Pentagon to visit 40-50 congressional offices to discuss the list of concerns of the base.
The council also sponsors awards for AEDC military award winners, the annual AEDC veteran’s picnic, the ACC job fair, Honor Flight and the AEDC children’s Christmas party.
Morse has been an ACC member since 2000 and was recently voted president of the council.
Morse’s volunteer efforts don’t stop there. He is also is a committee member for Wreaths Across America, an organization that places wreaths on fallen veterans’ graves during Christmas.
Additionally, he is the president for the local Arnold Air Force Association, which runs a scholarship program for military members and their dependents as well as providing grants to promote science and math education in schools.
Morse said the idea of being singled out for devoting so much of his time to help others was never a motivating factor in his volunteer work. In fact, he said, the thought never crossed his mind.
“I never expected anything like this. I’m just giving back to my community,” he said.
For Morse, rolling up his sleeves and getting involved in his community is simply second nature.
“I’m not a person who can just sit around in a rocking chair. As long as my health allows me to help others, I will,” he said.
Since obtaining the nickname of Volunteer State after the War of 1812, Tennessee has been recognized for its ample amount of volunteers. The Governor’s Volunteers Star award honors all those who have dedicated countless hours back into the state.
“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.
For more information on Volunteer Tennessee, visit www.volunteertennessee.net.
Faith Few can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.