Celebrating Volunteers: Norris Finds Many Ways to Save People, Dogs

This week, we’re celebrating National Volunteer Week with stories about faculty and staff who give of their time and talents to make a difference in our community. If you would like to share the way you volunteer, send us a note. Include your phone number and e-mail address. And, if you have it, send us a photo of yourself volunteering.

Michele Norris, a financial specialist in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, knows what it means to get a helping hand.

That’s why she now provides a helping hand at a variety of local agencies.

Michele with other volunteers at KARM

“I run a recovery support group called Stepping Stones at my church, Children of God Ministries in Knoxville. I sponsor, mentor, and guide women who are on their various journeys through recovery,” she said. “I give back because I, too, had a drug problem for over ten years and have been sober now for twenty years.”

Norris said she turned to substance abuse for comfort after a bad relationship. She got clean after getting involved with church.

Norris also leads Bible study three or four times a month with women incarcerated at the Knox County Detention Center. She began working there after networking with a fellow parishioner at her church.

She works with fifteen to twenty-five women at the jail and enjoys the “satisfaction of letting people know that if I can make it, anybody can.”

Norris also work at her church’s annual Free Market Day, a mission program where donated clothing, furniture, appliances, and other items are offered free to anyone who wants or needs them.

“We also provide a sack lunch for everyone as they’re exiting the facility,” she said.

Once a month, on Sundays before she goes to church, she helps serve breakfast to 150 to 300 homeless people at Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries.

And when she’s not helping save people, she reaches out to dogs in need.

Michele and Max

“I also volunteer for Westie Rescue of Tennessee,” she said. The organization rescues and rehabilitates West Highland White Terriers for adoption.

“I will pull Westies from the shelter to foster and rehab them for future adoptions,” Norris said.

She said she got involved in the rescue group via Facebook. The group is based in Franklin, Tennessee, and needed some volunteers in Knoxville.

When a needy Westie winds up at Young-Williams Animal Shelter, the rescue group summons its volunteers. If she’s able, Norris will pick up the dog, take it to the vet, and get it cleaned up. Then she’ll foster the pooch and nourish it back to health until a permanent home can be found.

She’s had two success stories so far. One of them, Max (pictured), had been left outside with little care after his owner died. He had become food aggressive. After some TLC, Max found a new home in Atlanta, where he’s now “living up the good life,” Norris said.

Norris has two Westies of her own, Millie and Murphy, as well as a Jack Russell-dachshund mix named Maggie.