Signal Mountain resident Shirley Keyes can't recall exactly how long she's been volunteering for Signal Mountain Social Services, which aims to help locals in need reach self-sufficiency, but she estimated it's been about 13 years.
While accepting SMSS' Volunteer of the Year award recently, she was reminded that she actually started volunteering for the organization in 2000 at its resale shop, the Clothes House, then located in Walden next to the Mountain Opry. Keyes began volunteering at SMSS' food pantry the same year, and has also contributed her time to various special projects, said SMSS Executive Director Mary Lee Ziebold.
"In addition to being a faithful volunteer, she has true compassion for the clients we serve and has gotten to know many of the clients personally," Ziebold said of Keyes, who was also named Woman of the Year by the Signal Mountain Community Guild two years ago for her volunteer work.
Deseret Ward, named one of Signal Mountain Social Services' 2016 Volunteers of the Year along with Dawn Carlton, described Keyes as an enthusiastic volunteer who always shows up with a smile on her face.
Keyes said she started volunteering with the organization because she enjoys doing things for others. One reason she's continued to give her time to the cause is that her volunteer work has opened her eyes to the need for the services SMSS provides, noting that many of the clients served lack the resources to even get to the nonprofit's office on Mississippi Avenue.
"I think we take for granted how blessed we are," she said, as to why she would encourage others to volunteer for the organization. "Living on the mountain, we don't really realize that some people don't have the means that our neighbors have or that the people sitting next to us in church have."
SMSS serves more than 50 families in need, all of whom live on the mountain. This is made possible through people such as Keyes, who help reduce the organization's overhead costs by volunteering countless hours stocking its food pantry and selling donated items at the Clothes House.
"The sales help us carry out our mission of helping those clients reach self-sufficiency," Ziebold said, adding that the Clothes House is always in need of more volunteers. "If you're looking for a way to give back to the community, it's a convenient place to volunteer — there are not too many organizations people can volunteer their time in on Signal — with very flexible volunteer times."
She said help is also needed at the Food Pantry and for other projects.
For more information, call 886-5982 or visit signalmountainsocialservices.org.