A well-known executive director of a Lebanon homeless and battered women’s center has received an esteemed annual award from the Lebanon Breakfast Rotary Club.
Longtime community advocate Liz Reese said she was surprised at the club’s regular Thursday morning meeting. She said she knew something was up when her pastor and sister were among the regular attendees. Reese presides over Brooks House, a long-time Lebanon center and shelter for women and their children.
Club President John Lankford presented Reese with the annual Col. Bernie Bass Community Service Award.
“Every year we look for people in our community who are there to serve and don’t look for recognition or accolades,” he said. “Liz Reese is the embodiment of this. Col. Bernie Bass is who we named the award for because he was all about service above self.”
Bass, an Air Force veteran, died in Nashville in 2010 at the age of 91. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church in Lebanon and served as deacon, elder and Sunday School leader. His involvement in Lebanon included time as a trustee of Cumberland University and Wilson County Library Board Chairman.
The previous Community Service Award as given to Gordon Bone in 2019.
“One of the biggest reasons Liz was chosen this year is because of her extraordinary work at Brooks House and the fact she is the lay leader at Providence United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet,” said Lankford. “She’s just so involved in the community.”
Reese has no bounds when it comes to serving homeless and battered women. Once, she was on a plane and struck up a conversation with someone next to her. The man asked about what she did for a living, and she said, “Who are you?”
“He told her Jeff Bezos (founder and executive chairman of Amazon),” said Lankford.
Reese quickly smiled and said, “What can you do for Brooks House?”, according to Lankford. To this day, Brooks House receives paper goods and necessities from Bezos.
She did know the Rotary Club was going to give a $1,000 donation to Brooks House. Jacob Armstrong, pastor of Providence United Methodist Church, introduced Reese for the award.
“She’s a lay leader at the church and were so honored for her,” he said. “We love her and all she does for the community. It was such a nice recognition. I’ve known her for 13 years. She’s a light to the community, and a light in the community.”
Reese said this award to her was the best kept secret in Wilson County.
“My pastor, sister and best friend were there, and I wondered what in the world?” she said.
She said when Armstrong quoted the Bible’s Proverbs 31 verse, she became teary eyed.
“He talked about daily work and service,” she said. “But it’s not about me at all at Brooks House. It’s a family and community. I was shocked, totally shocked.”
Reese has been at the helm of Brooks House for 14 years. Over that time, it has served 1,600 women and children with a safe place to stay. Currently, there are four women and children residents there due to a shutdown during COVID-19. During the pandemic closure, Brooks House offered mental health counseling, and financial counseling through the Operation Hope program.
“We really need Brooks House,” she said. “We needed this domestic shelter; a safe place for women to come. For people to get back on their feet. Maybe they’ve lost their job, or housing and we give them a pathway to be self-sufficient. Maybe they are running from something. We are their respite.”
Lankford said Reese was the perfect Bass award recipient.
“It’s not too often we get to meet an angel on earth,” he said. “She’s one. She’s tough and very strong.”