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Karen Shayne is Transforming a Mood into a Movement

ImageWhen Karen Shayne finished her last chemotherapy treatment for cancer she was declared “in remission” and a “survivor.” She looked in the mirror and asked herself “What next?”  She realized that surviving cancer has more impact on one’s life than simply returning to the way things were. Instead, there are many questions, we feel different and experiences are new again.  There is a “new normal.”

Karen dealt with her questions and her “new normal” by participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life and began volunteering for the American Cancer Society beginning in 1998.  She also formed her first non-profit organization for children, called Billy’s Wish, which created materials for children with cancer in 2001.

But Karen still sensed a need to help other women cancer survivors and envisioned the beginnings of Women Survivors Alliance with an annual convention to be held in Nashville.  She went to work organizing the first-ever National Women’s Survivors Convention held in 2013 – bringing together 846 women from 49 states and 5 countries who had survived cancer with 112 cancer organizations from around the world.

The convention program was anything but conventional. It was designed to help women address issues related to their “new normal” – issues such as lingering or undetected side effects caused by chemotherapy, hot flashes, sexual dysfunction and significant self-image issues etc.  It also provided an environment to empower and give a voice to the survivors who have been given a second chance in life to advocate for themselves and others.

“I volunteer my time with my non-profit – usually 12-16 hours a day – basically all the time – to manage all the working parts with survivors from around the globe. It’s hard work,” Karen says, “but when you realize you’re changing lives, it becomes the drive that keeps you going – even through the tough times.  I volunteer to not just give back, but to honor,” she added.

“I was greatly influenced by my grandmother, Charlotte (Mama) Spivey.  She was a remarkable women and my hero.  Her hard work and philosophy of giving back were my models,” Karen said. “When I volunteer, somehow it makes me feel like I am honoring her life.  My work keeps her alive in my heart.”

Karen is living her life with a new normal and is transforming survivorship from a mood to a movement by empowering, educating and connection women whose lives have been touched by cancer.  And she’s hard at work on the next National Women’s Survivors Convention to be held at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Resort in Nashville July 31-August 2, 2014.  For more information see www.survivorville.org.

Doing Good is proud to recognize Karen Shayne as Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for February.

Join the Conversation:  What cause has a personal meaning for you?  What are you doing to honor the heroes in your life?  What legacy do you want to leave?

Blog Written by:  Karen E. Williams, a volunteer with Doing Good, an organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism.  The website is www.DoingGood.tv.  Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month is a free program which educates and inspires others to volunteer by sharing stories of local volunteers through media partners.

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Passion Drives Cancer Survivor Navita Gunter

Navita Gunter Educates & Encourages

Navita Gunter Educates & Encourages

Fifteen years ago Navita Gunter was “attacked” by cervical cancer.  It was a very hard time but she fought the good fight, and today, by the grace of God, she is a survivor.  She thrives by volunteering her time to encourage those who are suffering from the horrific disease, and by educating women and young girls about how they can prevent it.  “My ordeal so changed my life that I did not want ANY woman to have to go through what I had to go through at that time,” Navita says.

Cervical cancer can be triggered by the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and it’s preventable. “Women of color have a greater chance of DYING from this illness because it is generally found in later stages for us,” Navita exclaims.  “Plus, surprisingly, in 2013 and 2014 there are still women who have not been to a doctor for female health care since they had a baby.  This even applies to those women with insurance.”

By telling her story Navita is able to provide encouragement and education. She believes the solution to eliminating this preventable disease lies in “Helping the Woman from the Inside Out!”  This is the motto of the Cervical Cancer Coalition of Tennessee, the organization she founded following her recovery.  In addition to her own foundation Navita works with the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program in the State of Tennessee’s Department of Health, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and she is a member of Gilda’s Club.

Navita volunteers at health fairs and speaks at churches, civic centers and other places interested in learning more about how to fight cancer.  She passionately delivers the message that HPV and cervical cancer have a good chance of being eliminated with regular health screenings and use of the HPV vaccine in young women and now in young males.

When asked about why she volunteers she says she hopes to show women how they can take their power back by becoming a voice for better health care and education in the communities where they live.  In some cases she’s doing this one woman at a time.

“The volunteer work feeds my spirit!” she exclaims.  “I am a better person because of the opportunity to share my story, knowing that perhaps one life, or maybe more, will be spared or improved by taking my message to heart.”

Doing Good is proud to recognize Navita Gunter as Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for January.  “Navita’s belief in one person’s ability to help many is inspirational,” says Megan McInnis, founder of Doing Good.  January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

Join the Conversation:  What are you passionate about?  Where do you volunteer?  How does volunteering feed your spirit?  What cause has a personal meaning for you?

Blog Written by:  Karen E. Williams, a volunteer with Doing Good, an organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism.  The website is www.DoingGood.tv.  Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month is a free program which educates and inspires others to volunteer by sharing stories of local volunteers through media partners.

Giving through Volunteering Brings Healing and Blessings in Return

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Jocelyn McCoy

First her mother died from cancer. Eighteen months later her father died.  Jocelyn McCoy was devastated.  But with time and the sage advice of a wise woman, Jocelyn found her way out of the devastating grief by volunteering.

“I was looking for a way out of the valley I was in following the deaths of my parents when a smart lady suggested that I think about taking on some of the things my mother was passionate about and that would have made her happy. That was the best advice I ever received,” Jocelyn said. “Mother had instilled in all seven of us children the value of giving and the notion of doing something to make others happy.  We were a ‘family of givers’ so it wasn’t hard to get involved.  And giving to others helped me heal.”

Jocelyn volunteers in Davidson and Rutherford Counties, Tennessee.  Her primary focus has been leading and volunteering in ministries at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, a congregation of more than 20,000 members. She is proud to be a core member of the leadership team at Mt. Zion that was the first faith-based organization to hold a Relay For Life event for the American Cancer Society (ACS).  The Congregation is still the largest faith-based Relay For Life organization in the U.S., raising nearly $49,000 in an overnight event held in early June.

Relay For Life events held throughout the country honor cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost – like Jocelyn’s mother – and help fight back against a disease that has already taken too many.  Jocelyn currently serves on the ACS Tennessee Relay For Life State Leadership Council to provide guidance and input for Relay For Life events across Tennessee, and works with ACS state leadership to ensure Relay events are poised for success each year.

Relay For Life involvement isn’t her only volunteer activity at Mt. Zion.  Jocelyn is also involved as a lead servant, or mentor, in the Congregation’s “Bridge Ministry” – bridging members from membership to discipleship.  “Through the Bridge Ministry program we seek to help each member find her or his passion, purpose and ministry,” Jocelyn says.

When asked about the benefits of all her involvement, Jocelyn humbly says, “I have come to understand that when I’m able to help and bless others, there is always something said or done that blesses me in return.  It’s not about my gaining anything.  Everyone needs attention, and I am drawn to the shy, to the marginalized and to the underdog.  It’s amazing the life lessons I’ve learned just by being serving others,” she says.

Some of the lessons she’s learned include the understanding that all people are different. We must respect each person and accept her or him wherever they are in their lives, she says. She also has come to realize the importance of modeling a positive attitude to those she comes in contact with, in spite of the circumstances she and they are facing.

In addition to her work at Mt. Zion Jocelyn volunteers for community events benefiting her alma mater, Trevecca Nazarene University, where she is employed as an Adult Degree Completion Recruiter. She is also President of the Smyrna Cemetery Organization, dedicated to continuing revitalization efforts of one of the oldest African-American cemeteries in Rutherford County, and has volunteered for the heart walk and other fundraising events.

Doing Good is pleased to recognize Jocelyn McCoy, a resident of Rutherford County, as the Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for July.

 How are you blessed by volunteering?  Please join the conversation.

 Doing Good is a new organization committed to promoting volunteerism in Metro Nashville by telling the stories of local volunteers through various media, including radio, television, print and the Internet. By educating and inspiring others about volunteerism, Doing Good seeks to increase volunteer involvement.

Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month is a free program produced by Doing Good. Nominations may be submitted to recognize any Nashville area volunteer for the good they do in the community.

Doing Good services are free to non-profit and government agencies.

Volunteer of the Month nominations and donations to Doing Good are accepted at www.DoingGood.tv.