Selena Silvestro has been voted the 2019 Woman of the Year by readers of The Collierville Herald-Independent.
She and her husband, Paul, moved to Collierville in the spring of 2005. They have two sons in Collierville Schools and a rescue dog, Oakley.
She has been doing volunteer work for local non-profit organizations since 2007, first serving on the board of directors for The Commission on Missing and Exploited Children for five years and then began organizing monthly service projects for Little Helpers in 2012.
She has been helping business clients for six years with the help of her colleague and mentor, Shawn Karol Sandy, founder of The Selling Agency.
The group manages sales and marketing programs for businesses and non-profits and their office is located in Southern Station at the Collierville Town Square.
The Collierville Herald-Independent recently caught up with Silvestro.
1) What brought you to the town?
My husband received a job offer from FedEx Express in the Finance Department. At that time, I left my 13-year career in corporate food service management for our relocation to Collierville — the same year we started our family.
2) What, or who, serves as an inspiration to you on a daily basis?
I’m inspired daily by the goodness in people, the connection we have to each other, our faith, and our community.
Every single day, I am thankful for my family and friends in this town. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in numerous projects over the years — Collierville truly comes together to help when there is a need!
3) You are involved with a group called Little Helpers that does community service. Can you tell me about the program?
Little Helpers has been helping children help others since December 2010. Our family volunteer group holds monthly service projects for children of all ages.
The program is designed to help young people understand the value of volunteering, recognize the blessings in their lives, broaden their community perspective, and feel the sense of accomplishment received from lending a helping hand.
The ultimate goal of the program is to raise confident children who see giving back to the community as a normal aspect of their lives. Little Helpers was created in Memphis, but today has chapters across the country.
I started volunteering for Little Helpers when my close Collierville friend Tran Bui Smith started the group. When she moved, I kept it going. Since then, it’s grown to 20 chapters – mostly from local friends relocating and starting their own Little Helpers groups.
Some of our projects have included making sandwiches for the homeless. We once made nearly 2,000 sandwiches in 45 minutes for First Presbyterian’s Soup Kitchen.
We also visit seniors in nursing homes, make comfort bags for homeless children, plant flowers at the Dorothy Day House for homeless families, gather school supplies for children in need, organize food drives and winter coat drives, make military care packages, deliver treats to our local heroes at the Mid-South fire stations and police departments, make craft kits for St. Jude Children, and help animal shelters with much needed donations. For more information, check out Little Helpers on Facebook @LittleHelpersVolunteers, or email: LittleHelpersKindKids@gmail.com.
4) You are involved with a veteran in an effort to get his home livable. What prompted this? Can you speak on this?
My friend, Allan Creasy, was volunteering for a special election in May 2017. While canvassing, he knocked on the door of Lorenzo Rhynes in Collierville.
They had a long conversation and Allan felt that Lorenzo could use some good neighbors to check in on him frequently. He posted about it on Facebook. I saw his post and decided to meet Lorenzo with my friend Lori Coulter. When we visited, we noticed the garage door was broken and his house needed a lot of work.
We decided to host a lemonade stand with our Little Helpers group to raise money for repairs. Our first project was paying for a new garage door.
Lorenzo told us his ultimate dream was to have a handicap accessible bathroom and fix up his home. He suffers from Cerebellar Degeneration and Macular Degeneration and it’s been a difficult decline in his mobility. Over the years, he went from walking with a cane to a walker and he’s been in a wheelchair for over six years. The disease has impacted his motor skills, balance, and speech.
Lorenzo is such a modest gentleman with a kind smile and a wonderful, welcoming soul. He has lots of stories of traveling the world in the U.S. Army from 1975 to 1978. He had many friends who served in Vietnam and joined up to serve our country when he turned 18. He was in the Second Armored Division and stationed in Fort Hood Texas and Grafenwohr, Germany.
Lorenzo has lived in the same home for 21 years and used to work in a Collierville factory (Constar International, formerly Sewell Plastics) that produced plastic packaging and bottles. He was a maintenance man and worked hard. He worked 16 years at the same job with only ONE sick day! He told us the Army taught him to work hard, be patient and never complain.
His biggest challenge outside of needing a more handicap accessible home was getting to his VA doctor’s appointments which are a 30-45 minute drive to Memphis. Last year, Real Simple Magazine, a national publication, did a story about good neighbors after hearing about Lemonade Stands for good causes from the NextDoor App. The Magazine took a pic of me with Lorenzo and printed a nice story.
Incredibly, a VA doctor read the article on an airplane and arranged for Lorenzo to have a home nurse visit from the VA, a caregiver stay with him four days a week for a total of 10 hours (to help with light housekeeping and cooking), and they gave him the use of a machine that helps macular degeneration sufferers. (It allows them to read aided by strong magnification and a special process where the background color is changed to make the contrast readable!)
Since we first met two years ago, Lorenzo’s become a good family friend! I visit weekly and drop off his groceries, and we’ve thrown him some nice birthday parties with the Little Helpers group! Various local contractors have donated home improvement projects to include the following:
• Handicap accessible bathroom — a complete remodel courtesy of Jason Smith of Titan Drywall & Construction, Allen Wilson of Wilson Floor Coverings & Dustin Wilburn of Wilburn Plumbing.
• A-Team Roofing donated a brand new roof (Lorenzo had a lot of leaks and water damage!)
• Chase Murphy from C&A Electrical donated services
• Bert Smith from At Home Heating & Air donated furnace repair.
• Memphis Flooring donated new floors recently, too!
The Home Depot Foundation is planning a huge remodeling project for Veterans Day, on Nov. 11. They’ll bring in a team of 5 dozen volunteers and repair Lorenzo’s broken fence and gate, do extensive landscaping in the front and backyard, repair wood rot, paint his home, fix water damaged ceilings, paint the kitchen, cabinets and provide brand new kitchen appliances.
It’s amazing what has happened from a simple door knock. It’s just wonderful to see our community come together to help a local Veteran in need.
We had no idea what our little Lemonade Stand could turn into. Social media is a powerful tool for organizing teams and spreading the word about volunteer projects.
I am simply amazed that our Little Helpers Facebook Live video generated so much interest from local contractors. It got the ball rolling on a life-changing project.
Recently, we hosted another Lemonade Stand to launch a fundraiser to help Brenda Boyce, a Collierville senior in need of a new roof and home repairs. We teamed up with Bill Arnold from the Collierville Police Department’s Special Citizen’s Volunteer Program (SCVP) and The Forsythe Family to raise funds. Thankfully, A-Team Roofing & Titan Drywall Construction bridged the gap when our fundraising fell short. They made a new roof and repair work happen for her! What a blessing.
5) The most rewarding part of serving a community is…?
I’m so grateful and amazed when a project exceeds our wildest expectations! It’s because of the generosity of our Town residents and other Mid-South families and business owners.
When our Little Helpers assist families in need with Christmas presents each year or we see the results of a successful home improvement project and the pure joy brought by everyday kindness, it’s such a beautiful experience for everyone involved! During our monthly Little Helpers projects, young children of all ages lend a hand. They have such pure hearts full joy in helping others!
6) What other community activities are you involved with?
Our family hobby is baseball! Both of our boys play for the Batter’s Box organization, and we love watching them enjoy their favorite pastime. Basketball season starts up soon, so we’ll be in the bleachers cheering.
I recently joined the West Collierville Middle School PTA when a spot opened up to help with the social media and website outreach.
It’s such a great group of parents and school administrators! I’m looking forward to more involvement with school projects! I’ve been a “Room Mom” for many years, but this is an entirely new way to help out. Other projects sometimes fall into my lap and I try to help the best I can.
7) What are some of your hobbies?
We love to travel as a family! I may have time for other hobbies when our kids are off to college! Right now, I’m shocked how time is flying by at warp speed.
We’re working on spending quality time together as a family before we blink and these boys have flown the nest! Someday, I’ll finish their childhood scrapbooks and look back on these busy days through the many photos I’ve taken.
I enjoy photography, art, and creative writing. I’d love to write a book someday!
8) You stay very busy. What is your daily routine like?
I work hard to help my business clients effectively reach their audiences. Connecting to others in a meaningful way is important for everyone. Sales and marketing is a very human activity — it’s not supposed to be robotic or spammy.
It’s all about helping clients and customers. I stay busy! There are newsletters to write, blogs to publish, websites to update, and social media posts to manage. Evenings are filled with Mom Taxi duties, and weekends are filled with all the fun of our active kids and their schedules.
I wouldn’t have it any other way!