Rolling Hills Community Church was filled with volunteers and the volunteer spirit Tuesday night as Franklin Tomorrow hosted its 15th annual Exemplary Community Volunteer Awards.

According to a press release from the nonprofit, hundreds of people turned out for the event that recognized several individuals and organizations for volunteerism they demonstrated over the past year. Honors were highlighted by the Charles M. Sargent Legacy Award presented to 65th District Tennessee Rep. Sam Whitson and the Anne T. Rutherford Award given to Wayne Howell, one of the primary founders of FrankTown Open Hearts.

The Charles M. Sargent Legacy Award, which recognizes an individual who has made significant impact in the areas of business, quality of life and leadership, is named for the late 61st District Tennessee Rep. Charles Sargent, who received the award before his death in 2018.

“Sam is an outspoken advocate for the preservation and education of local history and always seeks to live up to the high standards of integrity and duty he learned during his military service, sometimes standing as the lone vote in a contentious debate because it is the right thing to do,” Franklin Tomorrow Executive Director Mindy Tate said in presenting Whitson with the award.

Whitson was elected in 2016 after a 26-year career in the U.S. Army, and as known as much for his community work as for his legislative work. He has served as chairman for Franklin’s Battlefield Preservation Commission, the Cannons on the Square Committee and the Carter House, as foreman of the Williamson County Grand Jury, as secretary and board member for Franklin’s Charge, and as a board member for Tennessee Historical Society and Tennessee History for Kids.

After being elected to the state House, Whitson has served as chairman of the House Infrastructure Committee and as a member of the House Transportation Committee, Health Committee and Finance, Ways & Means Committee and subcommittees. He has co-sponsored legislation that prioritized the Mack Hatcher extension project and other road projects on Williamson County’s three-year transportation plan in addition to a passed resolution to begin installing safety structures along the Natchez Trace Bridge to eliminate the suicide hazard.

He also was one of the primary sponsors of a bill to assist families with children who have certain complex disabilities but are not eligible for Medicaid due to their family’s income or assets, which became known as the Katie Becker Waiver. The program received federal approval in November.

FT Volunteers 17

Wayne Howell, second from left

Howell, the recipient of the  Anne T. Rutherford Award, was a key figure in the founding of FrankTown Open Hearts, a nonprofit ministry in Franklin that spiritually, emotionally and physically enhances the lives of at-risk youth. Through “hands on” programming, it teaches life skills, to inspire confident, empowered young adults to lead fulfilled lives.

“Howell is known as the CCM (Chief Cheerleader and Motivator) and has been the ‘heart and soul’ of this ministry for many years,” said Tate, who added that Howell had donated more than 200 hours in 2021 and is making a “historic difference” in the lives of those involved in the program as well as its graduates.

Numerous other awards were given on Tuesday night and are listed below.

Corporate Volunteerism Award:

HCA Healthcare, nominated by SaddleUp!, and Mars Petcare, nominated by Williamson County Animal Center

Emerging Leader Award:

Ashley Roberts, nominated by Allena Bell for her work with Youth Leadership Franklin and numerous other organizations

Neighbor To Neighbor Award:

Cara Finger, nominated for founding her own nonprofit, My Bag My Story, and Myriam Farias, nominated for her work with Path United.

Volunteer Spirit Awards:

Brenda Arnold, nominated by Backlight Productions; Jennifer Hartsell Stockdale, nominated by Williamson County 4-H STEM; Katrina Brown, nominated by Williamson County Animal Center; and Tommy Sanders, nominated by Community Housing Partnership of Williamson County

Youth Initiative Award:

Chandler Bell, Threads of Care, Oasis House & other nonprofits, and Rinaz Jamal, 4-H STEM

Civic Group Award

A Vintage Affair, which since its founding in 2000 by Ralph Drury, has raised more than $2 million, specifically focused on women and children in Williamson County and raising awareness and money for those in desperate need of assistance.

Franklin Tomorrow Board President Patrick Baggett presented four awards which were the Newcomer Impact Award to Mike Simmons for his work to raise more than $23,000 for High Hopes Development Center through a Mustaches4Kids chapter; the Lifetime Impact Award to Jim Roberts, for his dedication to numerous nonprofits over more than 40 years as a Franklin resident; Board Impact Award to Franklin Tomorrow Board members Peggy Kidd and Russ Haynes; and a Community Impact Award to the founders of The Fuller Story, which were Eric Jacobson, Kevin Riggs, Hewitt Sawyers and Chris Williamson. Franklin City Administrator Eric Stuckey was also honored for his stewardship of The Fuller Story project.

Click here to read more and to view Tuesday night's program.