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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.

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.

Felicia Anchor Volunteers to Eradicate Injustice

Felicia Anchor

Felicia Anchor 

As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Felicia Anchor has come to understand that we live in a world where the random circumstances of our birth, location or class may have a significant influence on the outcome of our lives.  Life isn’t always fair.  As a result, she says, “I volunteer because I have no patience for injustice.  I believe it is the obligation of those who have overcome challenges to work to level the playing field for all.”

Felicia has volunteered with numerous Nashville and national organizations in leadership positions to create a better life for all of us by using her strategic planning and advocacy skills to assess community needs, educate the greater community about the challenge and develop programs to meet those needs.  “I have used my voice and organizational skills to develop networks and advocate for women, children and the memory of those lost in the Holocaust.   My priority has been to help girls and women learn to empower themselves so they make positive, healthy, constructive decisions for themselves,” she says.  “The purpose of my work with the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and the Anne Frank in the World Exhibit has been to give a face to the people who died in the Holocaust and to remember they were real people with real hopes and dreams who were subjected to unthinkable atrocities. We must never forget them.

“It’s easy to not speak up, easy to make excuses and tolerate different standards for ourselves and others,” Felicia added.  “Everyone deserves justice and dignity.  Providing justice and dignity for those who can’t speak for themselves has been my goal ever since I can remember.  I hope that my work has been a catalyst in creating a better life for all of us.”

Local organizations benefiting from Felicia’s leadership include the Nashville Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, President of Crittenton Services, President of Jewish Family Services, Chair of the Metro Human Relations Commission, Chair of the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and Chair of the Anne Frank in the World Exhibit.  She has also served on the Boards of the United Way of Middle Tennessee, National Conference of Community and Justice, Tennessee Women’s Economic Council Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Nashville. She was a founding member of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Nashville and helped create the “Children’s First” license plate for child abuse prevention.   Felicia is also involved in several national and international organizations.

Personal Benefits of Volunteering

Felicia says that she has gained much more from volunteering than she has ever given.  She credits her mentors who trained her with the skills to see herself as a leader, and has accepted that role with determination and humility.  Her husband has even suggested that she has received a free MBA as a result of on-the-job training and experiences.  “I feel that I am a dedicated stakeholder in working for the future success of our community,” Felicia added.

Doing Good is proud to recognize Felicia Anchor as November’s Volunteer of the Month.  Megan McInnis, founder of Doing Good, says “Felicia’s talent and executive leadership skills are as important to the success of a non-profit agency as executive leadership skills are to the success of a large or small corporation.”

Join the Conversation:  What are you doing to eliminate injustice, to add dignity and to make life better in and around Nashville?  Please add your comments.

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.