Troy Trojan Heart nominees discuss volunteering at senior center, animal shelter

Taylor Walding

Features Editor

As of Tuesday, 21 people had been nominated to receive the Troy Trojan Heart award, according to Avery Livingston, coordinator of the university’s Office of Civic Engagement.

The winner will be able to donate $1,000 in prize money to the organization of his or her choice.

Catherine Jordan, the director of the Colley Senior Complex, nominated one of her former volunteers, Breanna Maples, a junior social major from Mobile, for two years of volunteer service.

Maples volunteered twice per week for two years, completing an array of tasks including teaching computer and technology basics classes to senior adults.

“Some people came to me and literally had no idea and had never touched a computer in their lives,” Maples said. “Others came to me and had some experience but had no idea what Facebook was but wanted to learn how to get in contact with their kids or their grandkids and things like that.”

Maples recalled one instance when she helped an older couple who moved to Troy from somewhere “up North” and wanted to get in touch with old friends and family. She helped the wife set up a Facebook account where she friended her children and grandchildren, and she uploaded her favorite cat photos.

“She was just so excited, and that was really moving to me,” Maples said. “There were several similar instances.

“That’s just one in particular that I can think of.”

When asked what made her decide to volunteer there, Maples said previous experiences warmed her up to the idea.

“I have always loved working with older folks, just being around seniors at church, visiting nursing homes with my church ministry,” Maples said. “I’ve just always loved that.

“And I’m an old soul, so I feel like I can connect with them, so I just love it.”

Maples also said that her volunteer work counted toward her leadership scholar hours.

“It was a double whammy and the perfect situation, and I loved it,” Maples said. “I wish I could still do it.”

Maples had to quit because of increasing academic responsibilities. She volunteered from 2015-2017.

Jordan said that Maples was her most dedicated volunteer during the last six years Jordan worked there.

“She was always here and on time,” said Jordan. “Sometimes, she would stay longer than she intended to because she got involved in what she was doing.

“They were enjoying it, and she was enjoying teaching them. She pretty much would do anything for anybody and help anybody she possibly can.”

Jordan spoke highly of Maples’ character, stating that she was a humble, intelligent and caring individual.

Tiffany Howington, a student services adviser at Troy Online, was also nominated for the award. She runs the Troy Animal Rescue Project (TARP) and was nominated by Malcolm McSwean, a board member of the nonprofit organization.

Howington started the organization in 2014 and has since rescued and placed over 6,000 animals.

According to McSwean, TARP raises tens of thousands of dollars per year to pay for vet bills, food, medicine costs and expenses of operating its rescue center located near Spring Hill.

“I have seen firsthand for over four years now what all is involved,” McSwean said. “I’ve seen how much effort and time she puts in.”

McSwean said this endeavor has been something she has worked at every day for the last four years, praising her consistent work ethic.

Howington said she was honored to have been nominated. When she began the organization, it was in an effort to decrease the Troy pound’s 95 percent euthanasia rate. She said she saw a need and jumped in to help.

When the effort first began, it reached full capacity with 15 dogs. However, today TARP has 230 animals.

There are dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, an iguana, two ferrets and a pot-belly pig. Howington said the organization receives 50-150 requests daily to take animals.

She said they are able to place around 50 percent of those animals, as some are geograprahically unreachable.

“I honestly didn’t expect it to ever be this big,” said Howington.

According to Howington, the organization never turns away animals because of medical status. The only reason it refuses intake is when animals are hostile toward humans.

The deadline for nominations was Wednesday. The winner of the award will be announced on May 1.

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