The Full Story
A.W.A.K.E. Nashville (Advocating for Wellness, Accessibility, and Knowledge of injustice facing the Elderly) is a non-profit organization that advocates for senior members of our community who have limited resources and cannot advocate for themselves. It is our goal to build a bridge of opportunity for the very people who thought they had been forgotten.
The organization was formed by Karen Holder and Danielle Cotton after the matriarch of their beloved family (Norma Upshaw) was impacted by the growth and development of Nashville and was displaced from her senior living community in Madison, TN. After spearheading the relocation efforts of all the seniors, the mother-daughter duo saw a need and wanted to launch an organization to address the growing housing gap for senior residents of Nashville. However, they realize that affordable housing for seniors is not an isolated problem, and they plan to continue to scale their efforts worldwide.
Since inception in 2022, AWAKE Nashville has made significant progress towards its mission, including creating affordable housing solutions for seniors on fixed incomes and championing legislation to extend the eviction regulation period for involuntarily displaced seniors from 30 to 60 days. The over-arching purpose of the organization is to be the change agent in transforming the lives of seniors to a place of wholeness. We are dedicated to assessing each person’s individual needs in efforts to improve their ability to function as a productive, contributing members of their community.
Meet the Team
Founder & CEO
Karen Holder, Founder & CEO of AWAKE Nashville, is a beacon of hope and catalyst for change in her community. With an unwavering commitment to uplift marginalized communities, Holder has dedicated her career to the noble cause of helping others.
Holder has extensive experience in counseling and ministry, having obtained a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling and a license in ministry in 1994. During her professional journey she has served in pivotal roles such as a Rehabilitation Counselor at Davidson County Drug Court and Program Director for Mending Hearts, where she brought compassion and dedication to every interaction.
Driven by an innate desire to serve the disenfranchised, Holder embarked on the creation of AWAKE Nashville, a testament to her visionary leadership and deep-rooted commitment to community empowerment. Through AWAKE Nashville, she has cultivated a platform for transformative change, offering support, resources, and advocacy for those who need it most.
Holder's impact extends far beyond the confines of her organization. She is a true champion for social justice, leveraging her skills and experiences to address systemic issues and foster legislative change. Her relentless dedication to improving the lives of those around her serves as an inspiration to many.
Danielle Cotton, Co-founder of AWAKE Nashville, is a native Nashvillian with a sincere passion for community, family, and social justice. Cotton has over eight years of professional experience in publicity, marketing, brand consultation, press relations, social media, brand design, email marketing, event planning, and more. As honors graduate from Lipscomb University with a B.A. degree in Journalism and New Media, Cotton began her career in public relations in 2015, specializing in the domestic and International entertainment arena. During her years of experience as a public relations professional, Cotton has led countless successful marketing campaigns for prominent television and entertainment companies, drama festivals, non-profits, and city leaders. In addition, Cotton has a sincere commitment to serving the community. As a seasoned, accomplished, and motivated strategic thinker, Cotton has leveraged the expertise of community partners, social activists, government officials, and nonprofits to create a long-term community plan around housing disparities for seniors. Through this initiative, she has garnered the attention of political leaders and had the opportunity to engage the city to evaluate policy changes and new funding opportunities to help protect the health and wellness of our most vulnerable citizens.
When Cotton is not working, she enjoys spending hours in home décor stores, spending time with her husband and family, making crafts with her beautiful five-year-old daughter, Aubrey, and being a dog mom to her twelve-year-old toy poodle, Bella.
Board of Directors
Dedication. Expertise. Passion.
Kieme is an Aging in Place Specialist from Stone Mountain, GA with a degree in public health and gerontology. She started her career in servicing older adults in long-term care and has advanced as a leader in the community advocating for health equity among seniors.
Board Vice Chair
Secdrick is from Columbia, TN, and attended Tennessee State University. He is a creative consultant with skills in marketing, campaign planning, project development, and fundraising. He also has paralegal experience and has helped to spearhead advances in restorative justice by creating a program that inspired appropriation of reentry resources on a federal, state, and local level.
Board Financial Manager/Treasurer
Marcus is an experienced financial planner from Nashville, TN with a degree in economics and finance from Tennessee State University. Prior to starting his own financial firm, he worked on Wall Street for six years. He now offers financial services to 500+ clients around the world and continuously educates the community on the importance of financial literacy.
Board Chair of Communication/Marketing
Melissa is from East Nashville and is a community advocate for affordable housing, employment, and transit. She has served in various capacities including, campaign leader for Community Oversight of MNPD, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), and coordinator of eviction outreach through PATHE (People's Alliance of Transit, Housing, and Employment).
Judge Lynne Ingram
Judge Lynne Ingram is from Columbia, South Carolina and is the judge of the Eighth Circuit Court for the 20th Judicial District serving Davidson County. She was elected to the bench in 2022. She received her law degree from Western Michigan Cooley Law School and comes from a family of public servants.
Odalys was born in Havana, Cuba but has resided in Nashville for 35 years. She is bilingual and has a degree in Business Healthcare Management from Tennessee State University. For the past 12 years, she has served as Program Coordinator for Metro Public Health assisting a diverse population to help improve and sustain their healthcare needs.
Pamela Hall Rankhorn is a native of Nashville, TN with a strong background in Communications and Business Management. Raised by her grandmother in North Nashville, she cultivated a deep appreciation for seniors at a young age, fueling her passion to make a difference in the community. Currently, Rankhorn is excited to extend her impactful work through AWAKE Nashville, where she aims to further empower and support older adults.
Dr. Melva Black
Dr. Melva Black is a native of Nashville, TN and currently serves as the Deputy Director of Metro Public Health Department. She has more than 15 years of leadership experience in public health and social services, predominantly working with non-profits providing oversight to several programs that address social determinants of health. She also has extensive experience in property management.
Carter Swayze is a native of Northern Virginia. He is also a husband, father, loves spending time outdoors, and is fascinated with the multifamily housing landscape. To date, Carter has worked on the development of nearly 1,500 units of affordable housing in the southeast. He is also active as a volunteer with Men of Valor, First Presbyterian Church of Nashville, and the Phoenix Club of Nashville.
Core Values & Beliefs
AWAKE Nashville is committed to operating in integrity, and upholding the highest ethical standards in all that we do. We believe our core values will help us fulfill our mission and vision to those we serve, and provide accountability, transparency, and trust with our donors, grantors, partners, and the community.
Core Values that guide the leadership of AWAKE Nashville:
The moral compass that guides our actions and decisions to do what is right and ethical in our commitment to serve others.
Prioritizing this core value recognizes the inherent worth, dignity, and value of every person we serve or conduct business with. This principle allows us to create a culture of inclusiveness, fairness, and equity where differences are valued.
The dedication to remain consistent, reliable, and mission-driven has allowed us to build trust with our donors and develop valuable collaborations whereby meaningful and lasting change can happen in our communities.
Transparency & responsibility helps foster an environment for strengthening communication and enhances the opportunities to make needed improvements.
“Love Your Neighbor as Thy Self.” Ultimately, this fundamental principle is what inspired the vision of AWAKE Nashville. Community is not simply tied to a geographical location but is based on the idea that we are all interconnected, and our well-being is tied to the well-being of those around us. This belief is rooted in the idea that we thrive when we have a sense of belonging and connection with others.