For Darlene Stephen volunteering is a family affair. “Since childhood I’ve watched my family helping people and found that I wanted to help too,” she said. “My family has always been involved in volunteering at church, work and school; it just comes natural.”
Over 20 years ago when Darlene’s grandmother put her knowledge as a caterer to use in planning and preparing meals for the Tuesday Feeding Program at Spruce Street Baptist Church in Nashville, Darlene was right there helping to prepare and deliver some 60 meals each week to the sick and shut in from the church and the community. They also serve an average of 65 guests who are able to come to the church for lunch on Tuesdays. Even after suffering a stroke, Darlene’s 94-year-old grandmother still plans the menus while Darlene has taken charge of ordering the food, cooking, coordinating the volunteers, preparing the take-out meals, delivering the meals and doing whatever else is needed. Other extended family members also serve on the Tuesday Feeding Program team. Even Darlene’s 14-year-old son helps during school breaks and in the summer.
In November of each year Darlene leads the Spruce Street group in providing meals for the Greater Charlotte Hot Lunch Meals on Wheels Program. This entails preparing and delivering lunch to 175 seniors and disabled recipients Monday through Friday. Spruce Street is one of 12 churches that serve the Meals on Wheels Program coordinated from the Bethlehem Center in Nashville.
When asked what surprises her most about volunteering, she said it’s how appreciative the people are when they see that that somebody cares. “I feel so blessed that I’ve had the opportunity to help,” says Darlene. “We could be in the same circumstance as those we help, but by the grace of God, we’re able to be on the giving end. My motto is ‘To be a light for someone lost’.”
In addition to the Tuesday Feeding Program and the month-long Meals on Wheels Program Darlene volunteers as secretary of the Spruce Street Community Development Corporation; she is a Board member of the Spruce Street Golden Manor (a senior apartment complex), and the Spruce Street House of Hope board (apartments for persons with disabilities). She and her family members also volunteer with the Christmas Angel Tree Program and a prison ministry. “My son sings at the Bordeaux Hospital and adopts a family at Christmas. We’re a close-knit family and we support each other,” she added.
Darlene was well-trained as a volunteer – not only by her grandmother and mother, but in her previous career. For 30 years Darlene worked at Meharry Medical College and spent 20 of those years coordinating the Sister Program – an alcohol and drug treatment program devoted to helping mothers living in public housing. “The most rewarding part was to see mothers re-establish responsible parenting relationships with their children and break the cycle of addiction,” she said.
Doing Good is proud to recognize Darlene Stephen as Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for April.
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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.