Lawrence County Volunteer Stars shine

Two more residents are being recognized for giving gifts of time and talent to others.

Theresa Beck and Madison Wheeley are Lawrence County’s adult and youth recipients, respectively, of the 2018 Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award. They and honorees from other participating Tennessee counties will be recognized in a ceremony at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs on February 10.

Past adult recipients are historian Curtis Peters, Abigail’s Plan volunteer Jeff West, Santa for Seniors founder Sandi Mashburn and Noah’s Ark Widows Ministry founders Debbie Griffin and Diane Hildenbrandt. Youth honored for their work in school, church and community are Joanna Helton, Sara Beth Conley, Alaina Staggs and Abigail Kidd.

Theresa Beck, IAM4Kids

Theresa Beck is the founder, president and treasurer of IAM4Kids, a 22-year-old ministry that continues to have a positive impact on Lawrence County children and is poised for replication nationwide.

The ministry began when one child asked to come inside a church where Theresa was leading a Bible study. She began meeting with children in that neighborhood and volunteering at the nearby elementary school. This led to a weekly after-school program that was supported by several area churches and other volunteers.

On the invitation of the late General Sessions/Juvenile Judge Lee England, she became a juvenile court advocate. “If he felt I could help them, he would point to me and say, ‘You need to go talk to that lady over there.’” She met with them and sometimes their parents. “If you know a child’s story you understand,” she said. “Miraculous things happened.”

For one year, the local school system donated use of a former elementary school and two school buses for a weekly after-school program for older students. Twenty volunteers worked with 30-40 teens, while others kept up the program for younger students.  

“I made it up as I went along,” Beck said, laughing. “And Lawrence County helped me in every way – the police, the courts, teachers, schools, and the churches that help and continue to give help. I consider it the body of Christ.”

In the third year, the programs combined under one roof and Theresa filed for nonprofit status. “It has been ‘Theresa Beck for Children Ministries,’ but I wanted it to mean more and be more than just Theresa Beck.” IAM4kids names God first.

Sporadic attendance at the afternoon programs made them difficult to maintain, but she and other volunteers continued working with students in other settings. Then in 2006 IAM4kids began supporting children in a new way.

Steve Seaton was a youth pastor and relatively new volunteer who became IAM4kids’ first (and still only) paid staff member. Under Theresa’s leadership, he worked with the school system, the faith community, and other local organizations to develop a one-on-one mentoring program for Lawrence County students

Mentors’ backgrounds are checked and they receive ongoing training and support from IAM4kids. They are asked to eat lunch at school with “their” student one day a week, and cultivate a listening, caring relationship with that child.

Theresa says mentoring programs serve the same goal that IAM4kids had from the beginning. “Everything we did was an excuse to get to know them and let them know we loved them.”

IAM4kids’ mentoring now includes teacher- and student-led mentoring programs in several schools. IAM4kids’ presence helped Lawrence County schools receive a multi-year $2.3 million mental health grant. Now, Seaton has developed materials that can help other school and faith community partnerships replicate the IAM4kids mentoring program nationwide. Details and testimonials are offered on

Beck continues as the nonprofit’s president and treasurer, and serves the school system as a surrogate parent for every child that is in state custody.

Madison Wheeley, Lawrence County High School

She’s just a senior in high school, but Madison Wheeley knows how she wants to be remembered. “I want others to remember me as someone who truly loved and cared for people. Not only by the words I speak or the decisions I make, but because I was truly there for them and experienced life alongside them.”

Tommy Lee and Lesa Kidd led the campaign to establish Lawrenceburg’s “Abigail’s Plan” Miracle League Field and nominated Madison for the award. They describe her as “bright, humble, energetic, kind and caring.”

“God has truly given Madison a kind and caring heart and she amplifies these characteristics in a positive way. While playing basketball in elementary school, Madison was on the opposing team and helped our daughter who has Down Syndrome score her first points.” That video, now on YouTube, was broadcast by a Nashville news station.

In addition to volunteering for Abigail’s Plan, Madison is a very active member of Mars Hill Baptist Church; is a local Huddle Leader and speaker for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA); and has been on multiple summer mission trips to Montana, where she helps conduct Vacation Bible School for a small church.

Natural leadership abilities have come to the forefront as well.  She is current vice president of the Tennessee Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and was state secretary in 2017-18. One duty of those offices is planning the annual spring conference for about 3,000 Tennessee members. She has won two first place state FBLA titles: Business Financial Plan in 2015 and for Publication Design in 2018.  This year she will compete in the SkillsUSA Customer Service contest.

She is also president of the Student Government Association at LCHS.  The SGA is in charge of student activities during “Beach Week” (going on now), homecoming, and Mr. & Miss LawCoHi campaigns. “We try to have an activity once a month” the rest of the school year, she said.

 “I never want to miss an opportunity to make someone else smile, make a memory with others, or make a difference in the life of an individual,” she said.

Her academic record is stellar. She has earned all A’s throughout high school, is a member of the LCHS 100 Club, Mathematics National Honors Society and National Honors Society, where she serves as Project Coordinator. 

Madison plans to be an elementary teacher and begins her studies at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky this fall. “I would love nothing more than to come back to Lawrence County to teach,” she said.

Madison is the daughter of Brent and Sandy Wheeley, who are also active in this community and Mars Hill Baptist Church. “I have been so blessed throughout my life to have many church family members, family, friends, and mentors that have pointed me toward Christ and realizing the importance of the love he exemplified,” she said.

Skip to content