NASHVILLE - Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State, and Columbia native Jan Kirk Wright will be recognized tomorrow for being an outstanding volunteer.
Wright will receive AARP Tennessee's highest volunteer honor, the Andrus Award, for her contributions as founder of People Helping People. She started the group in 2009 to help repair homes for the needy in her community on the east side of Columbia, Tenn.
Wright says her efforts began as a means to cope with her own struggles with depression, after losing both of her parents within months of each other.
"I found that getting out and helping people made me get outside of myself and see that helping somebody else made me forget what I was sad about."
Wright says her organization began reaching out to area churches, businesses, government agencies and civic groups. Before long, they were helping to install heating systems, fix doors and windows and make roof repairs that hundreds of needy and elderly Maury County residents would not have been able to do themselves. People Helping People will receive a check for $2,500 as part of the award.
Wright says her dream is to transform entire neighborhoods by renovating one house at a time. AARP Tennessee Communications Director Karin Miller says what Wright has done to help others embodies the spirit of the Andrus Award.
"They do a 'People Helping People Day.' Last year, she had 200 volunteers out there. The work she has done, and that she has been able to get other people to do, has been just absolutely amazing."
Don Peterson, Nashville, will also receive an award on Wednesday, on behalf of the group Fifty Forward, and former state representative and pediatrician Dr. Gene Caldwell, Oak Ridge, will receive an award for the Emory Valley Center.
Miller says the Andrus Award for Community Service recognizes unique older individuals who are inspiring others to help their communities across Tennessee.