Wilson County’s nominees for the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards said they are humbled by the honor. Sixteen-year-old Gillian Fuhrmeister and retired builder Stephen Wheeley will both attend the ceremony Sunday in Franklin.
Fuhrmeister, the youth nominee, is a junior at Mt. Juliet High School, where she serves as vice president of the Science National Honor Society, president of the Best Buddies Club, and a peer leader for the Tennessee Teen Institute. She does this all while maintaining an A average.
She has volunteered a lot of her time with Drug Free WilCo, which is a coalition dedicated to preventing misuse of and addiction to drugs in Wilson County. As the youth sector representative, Gillian has been instrumental in planning events and increasing outreach among her peers. Gillian’s drive to educate youths in the community and increase youth participation in the coalition facilitated the creation of the Youth Prevention Coalition. She now serves as YPC president of this division of Drug Free WilCo.
“Drug Free WilCo is a group that works a lot toward prevention and awareness around vaping, smoking, opioid abuse and substance abuse. They are working hard with getting the information into Wilson County about their message,” said Fuhrmeister. “They were lacking in the youth section of it so I am their youth representative. I started all their social media accounts and last October started the youth coalition.”
Fuhrmeister said she was nominated by Tammy Grow, the co-chairperson of Drug Free WilCo and is the sponsor of the Prevention Coalition. She said the award she is nominated for is in recognition of the service she has done with Drug Free WilCo among many other volunteer projects she is engaged in.
Wheeley, the adult nominee, said he became involved in volunteer work a few years ago. He said he can pinpoint it to a specific event 12 years ago when a developer was attempting to build a religious theme park in town. Wheeley said he knew the contractors were not religious and only doing it to make a profit and he felt it in his gut it would not be right to let them build it.
“Even though I wasn’t attending church at the time, I knew it was wrong,” said Wheeley. “The feeling got so strong I knew it was God calling me to do this.”
Wheeley said they managed to block the construction of the park. After that he knew he wanted to dedicate his life to God and start helping his fellow man. He said he felt a calling and got involved with World Vision and still sponsors two children today, one in Rwanda and one in Mexico.
Wheeley said eventually he and other friends from his church community came up with the idea of Compassionate Hands Ministries, a group of churches that open their doors to the homeless. Now Wheeley does a lot of his volunteer work through The Salvation Army.
Wheeley was nominated by friend John Grant, executive director of Compassionate Hands, but said he does not want to be given any accolades for anything that he does. He says it is the faith of he and others like him that he is able to do the things that he does.
“Right off the bat, me winning this award isn’t about me, it’s about God,” said Wheeley. “What I do I do to be obedient to His command and serve other people and love my neighbor as myself.”
The Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards is an initiative from Volunteer Tennessee that seeks to recognize outstanding volunteers from each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. With the program now in its 12th year, participating counties conduct a call for nominations and recognize one outstanding youth and one outstanding adult volunteer.