“The Caring Place couldn’t exist without you,” board chairman Dr. Dewayne Thompson said to the volunteers.
Last year, volunteers did the equivalent of almost $300,000 worth of work for the organization, based on the state’s value formula, according to volunteer manager Yvette Mehling.
Combined volunteers worked a total of 14,740 hours.
“I appreciate each and every one of you for being here tonight,” Executive Director Reba Terry said.
Some volunteers were also specially recognized.
Two “snowbirds” from Iowa, Scott and Caroline Arnold, were awarded the Perry Myers Humanitarian Award.
“The award is presented to a person or couple who has volunteered for at least a year with The Caring Place, displayed a Christ-like attitude ... and make a significant contribution to The Caring Place,” Terry said.
The Arnolds spend the winter in Cleveland and have volunteered with The Caring Place for the past seven years.
“This award really goes to everyone in this room,” Scott Arnold said.
He said he sees The Caring Place as a way to impact children and give them a chance for a better life.
“I keep thinking maybe one of those kids going through is going to find a cure for cancer,” Scott Arnold said. “We’re feeding them, but they see us and how important it is to give back. And they are catching that spark (when) we tell them why we are doing this.”
Arlene Marr was awarded the Danny O’Neal Servant Award. The award is given to a volunteer who is faithful behind the scenes.
Marr has been a volunteer for six years.
Volunteers who have been with the organization for five years were also honored.
Volunteers also received praise and encouragement from a guest speaker, Brother Ron Fender.
“I have followed your work. It is holy. It is incredible,” Fender said. “I want to congratulate you on your incredible year of service.”
Fender is a member of the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory and serves at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen connecting clients with the right programs.
“You have become the hands and feet of Christ, and by your selfless and dedicated work the least of these now knows the tangible presence of the living Christ,” Fender said.
Fender said in the United States there are 3.9 million homeless people. The average age of a homeless person in the U.S. is 9 years old, he said. At the same time there are 18.5 million vacant residential properties in the U.S.
“Something is terribly wrong,” Fender said.
Fender develops long lasting friendships with many of the homeless he serves.