WKRN (NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Master Sergeant Jay Servais has dedicated his life to “service to God, service to my family, service to my community and service to my country.”
Servais may look familiar as he’s spent time in front of the camera. He’s been with the Nashville Fire Department for 27 years. He’s a district chief, dedicated to operational planning and management response through agencies like the Office of Emergency Management.
“The driving force or one of the rewarding things to me is when we have cold weather shelters in Nashville or when we had the fairgrounds open for that shelter during COVID people had somewhere to lay down in a safe, warm environment and eat and feel human,” said Servais.
But there are other ways the master sergeant has served. He spent thirty years in the medical unit for the Tennessee National Guard and was deployed multiple times, some in combat situations and others in restoration efforts or medical support.
But the master sergeant has spent most of his life in service volunteering with The Salvation Army.
“Since I was little, I have been out with my father or my grandfathers, or my mom’s side and my dad’s side, both with The Salvation Army and serving meals underneath the Jefferson Street Bridge or going to the area command and serving Christmas dinners or Thanksgiving dinners,” said Servais.
That’s because love for The Salvation Army has run through his family for four generations.
“We were saved in the early 1900’s out of a junk yard, broke, my great grandfather in prison, non-English speaking, great grandmother and her four children lived in a junk yard and The Salvation Army found them and saved them, provided shelter, medical and food for them. My great grandfather became a pastor, then both grandfathers, my mom and dad’s side pastors. My dad worked for The Salvation Army, and I volunteer,” said Servais.
Volunteering, helping the homeless, is a blessing.
“I get to see the person and not just the exterior,” says Servais. “I don’t get to see just the issue of homelessness. I get to see the person and that’s what keeps me going is when we have that breakthrough moment or when they actually build trust in you to be able to open themselves up,” he said.
What has also brought the master sergeant joy is fundraising for The Salvation Army through the Red Kettle challenge. It funds services like feeding the homeless.
“I thoroughly enjoy that piece of it and going out and ringing the bell and meeting people and raising those dollars, fund raising for The Salvation Army,” said Servais.
Every year there is a national four-hour challenge during the Red Kettle campaign to see which city can raise the most money. Master Sergeant Servais was part of the Nashville team.
“Last year we were fortunate enough to raise 276-thousand dollars in four hours which was the most in the nation,” states Servais.
So, the Nashville team was celebrated, flown to Dallas, to enjoy a Dallas Cowboys football game with the team’s owner as the Cowboys’ organization is a huge supporter of The Salvation Army.
“The challenge is to beat 276 this year. If we can do that in that one day, I mean the number of families that are going to be positively affected with that money is huge,” exclaims Servais.
“Jay is a hero on a lot of different levels. For us at The Salvation Army we know his legacy with his family. When Jay is looking at things, he’s approaching things from what’s best for the public, what’s the best goodwill option to help everyone that we can help,” said Harold Witherspoon, Executive Director of Development for The Salvation Army Nashville. “We’re blessed to have a man who walks in faith but also understands the importance of sharing that wholeheartedly with everyone.”
As for Servais, he hopes sharing his story will move others to have compassion for those in need.
“Do not let your own self fear or doubt get in the way of you making a difference in somebody’s life. You never know the positive impact you can have just by a touch, or a reach or a hamburger,” he shares. “And that can change their life.”
News 2 honors Servais as our News 2 Gives Back Hometown Hero for the month of January, presented by Trevecca Nazarene University, for his many years of service to his country and community plus his passion to continue his family’s legacy of service with The Salvation Army.
If you’d like to learn about ways that you can donate or volunteer at The Salvation Army visit salvationarmynashville.org