Be the Bridge raises funds and hope for seniors

September 29, 2023

September 26, 2023

RICK MURRAY Main Street Media

A large and enthusiastic crowd of riders, drivers and supporters attended the 2023 Be the Bridge event at Bluegrass Yacht & Country Club on Thursday Sept. 21. The occasion served as both a fundraiser and a celebration for Community Life Bridge (CLB), a local nonprofit that helps meet transportation needs for local senior citizens.

“Our transportation program, Community Life Ride, bridges the transportation gap faced by many seniors in Sumner County,” said CLB Program Director Christine Martin. “We use volunteer drivers to assist those 60 years or older in our area to get to various places, including medical, shopping, exercise and social destinations. We not only transport our seniors, we also help them to remain active, contributing to citizens throughout the community.”

This year’s program was emceed by Hendersonville Fire Chief Scotty Bush, who presided over an afternoon filled with tributes, award presentations and driver/rider presentations. Following opening remarks by Chief Bush and gold sponsor Taylor Hooks of Sean Roach and Associates, Martin came to the podium, standing in for CLB CEO Loren Sluder who had a prior engagement. Martin introduced rider Joy Barbarine, who offered an emotional testimonial about what the Community Life Ride program has meant to her.

Subsequently, Martin introduced driver Deborah Wilmore, who was named Community Life Ride Volunteer of the Year. After accepting her award, Wilmore briefly addressed the gathering.

“Community Life Ride is much more than a transportation service; it is a bonding of friendship between the driver and the rider,” said Wilmore. “I care about my riders, and they care about me. I always finish a driving day feeling better than I felt when I started, and that is because of the time that I get to spend with my riding friends.”

Following Wilmore’s remarks, CLB Board Member Robin Williams gave a brief tribute to late community volunteer Madlyn Butler, for whom the organization’s annual Distinguished Service Award is dedicated. Afterwards, Williams introduced CLB Board Chair Shelley Ames who spoke about the award briefly before calling Chris Hall from CLB Platinum sponsor Subaru of Gallatin to the platform.

Hall offered a few remarks expressing his company’s commitment to CLB’s mission before returning the podium to Ames. At this point, she announced the 2023 award recipient, local CPA Robert “Corky” Jennings. Jennings graciously accepted the award before delivering an impassioned plea of support for the Community Life Ride program.

Near the end of the program, CLB Board Member and Treasurer Brenda Payne came to the platform to offer a personal testimonial about what the nonprofit means to her and the community.

“All of us have the need to feel independent, to build relationships with others, to share their experiences and to feel valued. That is what Community Life Bridge is all about,” said Payne. “My gifts are happily given to keep the organization going both now and into the future.”

Payne’s sentiments were echoed by Martin, who summed up the impact of CLB and its ride sharing program.

“For me, I love to hear about the connections made, the stories shared, and the friendships built through Community Life Ride – from both the riders and the drivers. I am constantly amazed at the people who walk through our door to volunteer – people who have a heart for serving our community and seem genuinely excited to meet our riders, truly seeing them as their neighbors,” said Martin.  “Many times, I have heard volunteers say that they come to be a blessing to someone and soon after they start giving rides, they share with me that they are the ones who are being blessed. When a community comes together to serve each other, it really does make it a great place for everyone.”

A group photo of volunteer drivers present during the Be the Bridge event held at Bluegrass Yacht & Country Club on Sept. 21. RICK MURRAY