Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press Contractor and volunteer Curtis Cordwell, 40, stands in front of a house he built for a diabetic amputee in Ooltewah. Mr. Cordwell volunteered to build a ramp for the resident, then saw the need for the new home.
Did You Know?
Chattanooga's 125,000 volunteers serve 19 million hours per year. That's an estimated economic contribution of $373 million to the community.
Source: United Way Volunteer Center
Trendsetters in volunteering
Name: Jessica Clark
Volunteer Placement: Creative Discovery Museum
Claim to fame: As a participant in the Museum Apprentice Program, Jessica works in the exhibits, helps with events, leads other volunteers in projects. She has logged more than 800 hours since 2005.
Quote: "Jessica is excellent at interacting with guests and interpreting exhibit components as well as taking on a wide variety of projects necessary at the CDM." -- Kate Skonberg, Creative Discovery Museum.
Name: Kathleen Russell
Volunteer Placement: Crabtree Farms
Claim to fame: Developed children's "green" education program, called Nest, and provides education assistance at Crabtree Farms during kids' fields trips.
Quote: "Kathleen serves the community by supporting green education for children, as well as coordinating a volunteer group that works toward educating others on cooking with fresh food at the Main Street Market. She brings people together with common interests to accomplish goals together." -- Melanie Mayo, Crabtree Farms.
Name: Evelyn Webb
Volunteer Placement: 21st Century Child Development Center.
Claim to fame: Interacts with infants who are parented by teen mothers or single parents and teaches parenting skills to young parents.
Quote: "Many of the infants where Ms. Webb volunteers have parents who are from home settings that are unstable, and many of the parents may not have had examples of committed, nurturing mothers or fathers. Ms. Webb has an uncanny way of advising young mothers about childrearing issues. She never makes the parents feel they are inadequate." -- Angela Hayes, 21st Century Child Development Center.
For five years, Curtis Cordwell has volunteered for the Samaritan Center, a social-services agency in Ooltewah, regularly building wheelchair ramps, painting or doing other needed handyman projects.
Mr. Cordwell, a general contractor for 15 years, suffered a stroke in March 2009, but that didn't stop his volunteer work.
While recuperating from his stroke, he made a visit to the Ooltewah home of a diabetic amputee to build a wheelchair ramp.
"When he saw the condition of the home, he said that the owner didn't need a ramp, he needed a whole new home," said Angela Baerg of the Samaritan Center, which nominated Mr. Cordwell for the United Way Volunteer Center's volunteer awards.
Committed to helping this disabled man, Mr. Cordwell arranged for the old home's demolition, drew up a floorplan, and coordinated the building of a new, handicapped-accessible home from scratch -- all at no cost to the homeowner.
Mr. Cordwell convinced 24 individuals and business owners -- all friends or business associates -- to donate time and/or materials for the project. His church, Collegedale Seventh-day Adventist, donated $7,000 for the purchase of furniture and some building materials.
"I could not have done it by myself. It wasn't me, I give the credit to God," Mr. Cordwell said. "He spoke to their hearts and helped them realize it was something that was good for our community."
The home was built in less than three months, and Mr. Cordwell rolled the homeowner up the ramp and into his new home in January.
"It was tremendous to see our community can come together when somebody had a need," said Mr. Cordwell.
Mr. Cordwell received the United Way Volunteer Center's Volunteer of the Year Award during National Volunteer Week. Other honorees and the categories in which they won were Evelyn Webb, Education; Jessica Clark, Youth; Jenneth Randall, Health; Judith Williams, Community; Kathleen Russell, Environment.
<p id="adcode" style="display:none;">peoples2</p>
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...