Jefferson Award Honoree: Tommie Erwin
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - The Jefferson Awards are meant to inspire people to volunteer in their communities by highlighting the efforts of their neighbors already in the field.
We shine the light on a local woman who is used to helping people, but is certainly not used to all of the attention.
Tommie Erwin has been helping lead the Candlelighters for nearly 30 years, and says she was shocked to learn she'd been nominated for the Jefferson Award. The credit, she says, should go to the volunteers.
But if we could get her organization, which aides families of children with cancer, a little publicity, she happily granted us an interview.
"It's just not my thing to be in the public eye," says Tommie Erwin.
But Tommie Erwin has helped hundreds from behind the scenes.
Her program was birthed in crisis. In the early 80s, Erwin's daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease.
"We were fortunate. My husband had a good job and we were fortunate that we didn't lose any of our income. But we began to see after then, families that were having difficulties."
So ,she and two other ladies started the local chapter of the Candlelighters Family Support Group.
Their mission, for almost 30 years now, to help families of children stricken with cancer; providing emotional support, food, even paying the bills.
"A lot of out families are single moms and mom has to leave her job, doesn't always get paid while she's on family leave or, in fact, some even lose their jobs."
"And we might just have to do a one time payment for them that helps to get them over the hump of losing one or two paychecks or something like that."
Erwin and her many volunteers serve hundreds at their Christmas and Halloween parties for the kids and families.
"I've made friends with people that I would never have met if I had not been involved in this and so it's kind of like they're family."
But Tommie Erwin still shuns the praise, the credit and the spotlight.
"I feel like it's a mission that God has given me and so I like to help people and not everybody know who it is."