Elizabeth Laub and Lexis Khetsavanh are local volunteers with a passion for helping others. Every week they spend hours working with clients through United Way’s various volunteer programs, tutoring kids after school, working on their reading skills and assisting low-to-moderate income families with their taxes.
Because of their dedication to service, Laub and Khetsavanh were recognized as the recipients of the 2019 Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards of Williamson County.
Laub, the adult honoree, and Khetsavanh, the youth honoree, volunteer with Raise Your Hand Tennessee, a statewide collaborative effort to recruit volunteers to read, tutor or mentor children in school and during an afterschool program.
“The kids are my favorite part,” said Khetsavanh, a senior at Centennial High School. “They’ll just come up to you and start talking to you about what they’re doing at school, or hug you randomly, and it’s just one of the greatest feelings to know you’re making a difference in their lives.”
Khetsavanh began volunteering her junior year of high school, shortly after she got her driver’s license. She said it was something she had always wanted to do, but until she was able to drive herself it wasn’t a feasible weekly commitment. Now, she spends every Monday at Liberty Middle School, tutoring children and acting as a peer advocate between the students and their teachers.
Khetsavanh and Laub were among about 115 other volunteers across Tennessee who gathered Sunday at the Franklin Marriott in Cool Springs to celebrate the 12th annual Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards.
In addition to her work with Raise Your Hand, Laub also contributes to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program through the United Way of Williamson County. She’s dedicated months to preparing people’s taxes, and while she doesn’t call it a “fun” experience, she said she tries her best to make it “as pleasant and tolerable as possible” for her clients.
“By helping people do their taxes — sometimes they’re just having a really hard time in their life,” Laub said, “and it’s rewarding to get that scheduled and take it off their plate. It’s just trying to be kind to each other and be humane to each other.”
The GVSA began as an initiative with Volunteer Tennessee that sought to recognize outstanding volunteers from each of Tennessee's 95 counties. During this year’s program, the emcee, NewsChannel 5’s Jennifer Kraus, commented on the growth of this year’s event, saying they had to extend the size of the conference room to accommodate everyone.
Each year a business and nonprofit from each of Tennessee’s three regions are recognized for their outstanding community involvement and service, with this year’s middle Tennessee honorees being the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center as the nonprofit recipient, and Southeast Venture as the Middle Tennessee business recipient. Centro Hispano de East Tennessee was recognized as East Tennessee’s nonprofit recipient, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee as the business recipient. In the Western region, Beautiful Spirited Women was named the West Tennessee nonprofit recipient, and Medtronic as the business recipient.
The Stars Awards were the opening event of a three-day conference Volunteer Tennessee hosts, called the Tennessee Conference on Volunteerism and Service-Learning. The event hosts leaders of the state for a collaborative discussion on volunteerism and examines the question: “What can I really do to make a difference?”
For more information on the conference and Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards, visit tn.gov/volunteer-tennessee.