EHS senior recognized for volunteerism

Published 10:51 am Thursday, March 19, 2015

Star Photo/Brandon Hicks

Four thousand hours and 3,500 food items in three years.

That’s how much community service Elizabethton High School senior Kaitlyn Matheson has performed since she has been in high school.

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In recognition of her volunteerism and generosity, Matheson was awarded the Governor’s Volunteer Star Award during a special ceremony in Nashville. She was also honored with a proclamation from the Tennessee Senate.

“I never thought I would be honored like that,” Matheson said. “Most people do not know that I do it, and I never thought that I would be recognized by the governor.”

Matheson started volunteering and making food donations to local food banks about three years ago. She has started her own volunteer organization, Volunteering for Others through Leadership and Service, or VOLS, to help bring food to food banks and other distribution organizations through the region.

She helps out at food banks to organize and distribute the food to clients. She also helps secure donations of food for the food banks from local businesses.

“I just go in the grocery stores and ask if they have any food they can donate,” she said. “Sometimes they donate food. Other times they will donate gift cards that you use to buy the food with and take to the food bank.”

Matheson said volunteering is hard work but it was worth it to see someone have their needs met through the agency she volunteers with.

“Last year, a man who now plays at the Lamplight Theater told me he was once homeless and that he was fed out of a food bank that I helped stock,” she said. “It was an eye-opener. I realized what I am doing is making a difference.”

Tiffany Porter, the Carter County coordinator for the Volunteer Star Award, nominated Matheson for the award.

“It is my job to seek out these outstanding youth who give back to their community,” Porter said. “Kaitlyn works so hard and put in thousands of hours as a volunteer.”

Matheson traveled to Nashville to accept her award. During the banquet, she met Ms. Tennessee Hayley Lewis.

“It was an honor just to be there,” Matheson said.

The next goal Matheson has set for herself is a lofty one. She would like to complete 10,000 volunteer hours by next year.

“I know its a lot but I think I can do it,” she said. “It is worth it to make a difference and just to see people smile.”

Not only does Matheson volunteer in her own time, she volunteers with several groups she is involved in. She is a member of the EHS Cheer Squad, who regularly volunteer with the Ronald McDonald House in Johnson City. She plays basketball with the Happy Valley Watauga League and participates in charity games with them. She is a member of the EHS track team, the Future Business Leaders of America, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the EHS Key Club. She has also been a member of the Health Occupation Students of America in the past. She also participates in pageants and modeling.

“It is nonstop, but I love it,” Matheson said. “I chose it and I love it. I really do. I could stop any time I want to, but I don’t want to. I want to keep going and help as many as I can.”

After graduation from EHS this year, Matheson plans to attend East Tennessee State University and earn a degree in occupation therapy with a minor in education.

Matheson is the daughter of Kim and Greg Matheson and attends Lynn Valley Baptist Church.