It’s National Preparedness Month. Do you have a plan?

As we’ve learned from the March 2020 tornado, COVID-19 pandemic, March 2021 flooding, and hurricane warning earlier this month — disasters can strike unexpectedly.

There’s no better time than the present to prepare to protect, and keep you and your family safe during a disaster.

September is National Preparedness Month (NPM), an observance each September to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time. This year the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is using its public service campaign, Ready, to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to promote preparedness through public involvement.

This year, Ready is promoting four key ways to be prepared:

(1)  Stay informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses

(2)  make a family emergency plan and

(3)  build an emergency supply kit, and

(4)  get involved in your community by taking action to prepare for emergencies.

There’s some easy, low cost ways to prepare for a disaster:

Start today by signing up for alerts, safe-guarding important documents, and taking other low cost and no cost preparedness actions to lessen the impact of disasters and emergencies for you and your family.

It’s also important to teach your kids about preparing for emergencies and what to do in case you are separated. Reassure them by providing information about how they can get involved.

There’s also many ways you can get involved before an emergency or a disaster occurs, by joining a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program and getting trained on basic disaster response skills, taking FEMA disaster response classes such as You Are the Help Until Help Arrives, donating money to a reputable organization of your choice through the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD), and volunteer to respond to disasters and help your fellow Americans.

For a full list of how you can get involved, click here.

Don’t forget to share your preparedness prep with us! We would love if you shared your kits, how you’re making a plan, or any other helpful information others should know with us by tagging us on social media @HONashville, and using the Ready hashtags, #BeReady and #PrepareToProtect!

Honor. Serve. Unite.

The September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance (9/11 Day), is a chance to help others in tribute to those killed and injured on September 11, 2001, first responders, and the countless others who serve to defend the nation’s freedom at home and around the globe.

We’re honored to be an Americorps host site that builds nonprofit capacity across Middle Tennessee as members receive skills training, professional development, and networking opportunities throughout their yearlong term.

This #911Day we’re encouraging our members, family, friends, and followers to serve in a remarkable spirit of unity, honor, and compassion.

We would love to share your stories of service. Please feel free to tag us on social media at @HONashville and use the #911Day hashtag.

Remember, even a small act of service is a giant act of patriotism. 

How to help flooding survivors in Humphreys County

With a record-breaking flood devastating parts of Middle Tennessee, we know it’s our instinct to rush in to help. BUT, the situation in Humphreys County remains dangerous, and all volunteers are being asked to join a recovery group or organization for detailed instructions on how to be the most helpful. Please see the resource list below on how you can help.

Donation Information:

NOTE: All donations must be NEW. No used items are being accepted at this time!

The Community Resource Center is collecting most-needed items, recruiting volunteers, accepting items from their Amazon wish list, and collecting monetary donations. Visit their website at crcnashville.org.

For the CRC’s Waverly Flood Support Drop Off locations, click here.

Mother to Mother, Inc. has posted a list of donations they’re collecting. Items range from diapers to formula to towels and baby hygiene products. Click here for the full list and where to donate.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has activated its Tennessee Emergency Response Fund. Grants from these funds will be made available to nonprofits supporting relief and restoration in areas of Middle Tennessee affected by the severe storms and floods.

United Way of Humphreys County has also established a relief fund. Proceeds will help meet immediate and long term needs of residents affected by the flooding. One hundred percent of all donations will be used to help the flooding survivors.

The Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office posted about collecting items for those displaced at the National Guard Armory, located at 1421 US-70, Waverly, TN 37185. Items can also be donated to Compassion Church at their Student Building, 1452 Clydeton Road, Waverly, TN 37185.
NOTE: These items should be new or in like-new condition.

The American Red Cross is assisting with four shelters and has set up a disaster helpline at 1-800-985-5990. The organization has an online registry where survivors can register and send messages about their well-being. 

The Dickson Fire Department reported water rescues Saturday morning after about 10 inches of rain caused flash flooding. [Photo by the Dickson Fire Department]

Volunteer Information:

At this time volunteer efforts are being organized by the Waverly Department of Public Safety – Police & Fire. Those interested in helping with clean up or recovery are asked to call (931) 888-8011 or (931) 888-8012. Volunteers will be meeting at the staging area at the Dollar Tree, 515 W. Main St, Waverly, TN 37185.

The Community Resource Center has also begun compiling hygiene and relief kits to be distributed to those affected, and also need support unboxing and preparing donations to be transported to Humphreys County. Click the button below to sign up.

Compassion Church of Waverly is also utilizing volunteers. Those interested can text “flood” to (615)375-8333.

Flood Survivor Information:

If you have been impacted and need clean-up assistance please call the crisis clean up line at 615-338-7404. The phone will be answered from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. This number is for all counties affected by the flooding.

The Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle Tennessee is offering disaster relief to union members for those affected by the flooding on August 21.

The following are flooding shelters for those displaced. For more information, visit the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

  • Waverly Church of Christ, 438 West Main St., Waverly, TN 
  • YMCA of Dickson County, 225 Henslee Dr, Dickson TN 37055 
  • First Baptist Church, 300 E. Main St. Waverly TN 37185 
  • Fairfield Church of Christ, 1860 TN-100, Centerville, TN 37033 

It’s time to say goodbye to another Americorps cohort!

We are so proud of our 2020-2021 AmeriCorps cohort as they near the end of their term and begin their next adventure. This is a cohort that has problem solved like no other — they got out and met their communities, made all kinds of new friends, and have forever changed our organization for the better. The Hands On Nashville team and all our partnering host sites are so grateful for their hard work, amazing attitudes, and that they chose Nashville as their home for a year of service!  

The most rewarding part of my service year was how valued my team and supervisors made me feel. It allowed me to really flourish, both personally and professionally, and gave me the space to try new approaches to how things are done and see what worked and didn’t work to help make Nashville Diaper Connection a more effective non-profit.

— Heidi hayne, americorps volunteer and partner engagement leader at nashville diaper connection

While completing their term, AmeriCorps members said they discovered how to self motivate, their ability to take initiative, unknown writing skills, that they’re more adaptable than they thought, and mostly — that they get stuff done!

Reflecting on these members’ growth at the end of each is year is a rewarding moment, and while we’re sad to see them go, we’re so excited to see what else they achieve moving forward.

Americorps members receive their certificates of completion and thank you gifts at a closing reception in July.

Thank you to all our 2020-2021 host sites for taking such good care of our Americorps members!

Community Resource Center

Cumberland River Compact

The Family Center

Hands On Nashville

Harpeth Conservancy

Nashville Diaper Connection

Nashville Food Project

Nashville Tree Foundation

The Pencil Foundation

Shower The People

Turnip Green Creative Reuse

Workers’ Dignity — Dignidad Obrera

To learn more about the HON Americorps program, click here.

Jackson empowers its team to give back and strengthen the community

Since 2007, employees at Jackson National Life Insurance Company (Jackson®) have donated more than 290,000 volunteer hours to improving their communities. Their philanthropy program is engrained in their company’s values, and has continued to grow since the company’s inception nearly 60 years ago.

Jackson’s employee-engagement program, Jackson in Action, empowers team members to donate their skills and time through volunteer opportunities each month. Their volunteers are regulars with Hands On Nashville, whether it’s individually led projects or groups of volunteers assisting through our Corporate Partner Program.

A group of Jackson volunteers assist in a community painting project.

“We work with organizations to help strengthen families and create economic opportunities in areas where we operate,” says Niya Moon, the manager of Corporate Philanthropy at Jackson. “Popular volunteer activities range from assisting with meal preparation and distribution to address food insecurity to teaching financial literacy principles and offering career exploration opportunities to youth.”

Jackson has partnered with HON as the Presenting Sponsor for the annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards for multiple years, a role they have graciously accepted to assist in honoring some of Middle Tennessee’s greatest volunteers.

“One of Jackson’s core values is to positively impact our community, and we believe our corporate culture and employees should contribute to the greater good of society,” Moon says. “We are honored to be among so many other businesses, foundations, groups, and individuals who give generously to make this community great.”

Like so many companies last year, Jackson was forced to limit its volunteer engagement when COVID-19 struck. But the company pivoted its resources, and began pursuing virtual opportunities to fundraise and conduct donation drives to support local organizations during the pandemic.

Jackson awarded grants to programs providing financial coaching and direct assistance to people facing unemployment and other economic hardship intensified by the pandemic. They also offered support to organizations that were forced to postpone or cancel significant fundraising events.

But Jackson’s generosity extends further than their fundraising. Mid-pandemic, when food insecurity was at its highest, Jackson partnered with the Nashville Food Project by opening their dining center kitchen and utilizing staff to prepare meals while following social distancing protocols. Together, they served 6,075 meals for underserved youth and seniors in the community.

Jackson volunteers cut and prepare flash cards for local schools.

“One thing I love about Nashville is how the community works together to help each other during a crisis,” Moon says. “There were so many inspiring stories of the nonprofit sector meeting critical needs of our community reeling after two concurrent disasters—a tornado and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Following the tornado, Jackson employees volunteered 181 hours and contributed $19,620 toward recovery efforts. As the pandemic continues, Jackson has continued to extend its kindness across the community to aid wherever possible.

For more information about Jackson and their commitment to service, click here.

About Jackson

Jackson National Life Insurance Company® (Jackson®) is committed to helping clarify the complexity of retirement planning for its customers. Jackson’s range of annuity products, financial know-how, history of award-winning service, and streamlined experiences strive to reduce the confusion that complicates retirement plans. As part of their award-winning Corporate Philanthropy program, Jackson invests nearly $1.2 million annually in nonprofit and community causes in Middle Tennessee.

Hands On Nashville announces 2021 Strobel Volunteer Awards recipients

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 1, 2021) – Middle Tennesseans were honored for their volunteerism during Hands On Nashville’s 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, presented by Jackson National Life Insurance Company. Recipients were announced on HON’s website, social media channels, and featured on Lightning 100.

The annual event recognizes volunteers for their outstanding contributions to the community, and celebrates the life of Mary Catherine Strobel, a Nashvillian with an outstanding dedication to service. Winners are typically honored during a luncheon at the Music City Center; however, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit opted to recognize recipients virtually.

“Last year presented challenges that could only be met by the unbreakable spirit of this community and its volunteers,” said Lori Shinton, president and CEO of Hands On Nashville. “We are so honored to celebrate that incredible spirit and some outstanding individuals through the Strobel Volunteer Awards.”

Community members submitted more than 160 nominations for the 2021 Strobel Volunteer Awards. The public was invited to vote for their favorite stories of service, and a panel of judges selected the recipients, who will receive $1,000 to give to the charity of their choice. Finalists will receive $250 to give to charity.

“Congratulations to all Strobel Awards recipients,” said Aimee DeCamillo, Chief Commercial Officer and President, Jackson National Life Distributors LLC. “This has truly been a shared celebration of service, and we are honored to join Hands On Nashville and others in our community to acknowledge the resilience of volunteers during one of the most challenging years for our city.”

HON introduced two new categories this year — Social Justice Impact Volunteer and Disaster Volunteer — to acknowledge the extraordinary volunteer work that took place in 2020.

The award recipients are as follows:

  • Direct Service — Youth Volunteer: Sydnee Floyd, Jumbled Dreams Changing Lives
  • Direct Service — Adult Volunteer: Teaka Jackson, Love Thy Neighbors
  • Direct Service — Older Adult Volunteer: Dennis Caffrey, Siloam Health
  • Group Volunteer Service Award: Bridge Builder’s Program, Inc.
  • Capacity-building Volunteer Award: Corrie Anderson, Community Resource Center
  • Social Justice Impact Award: Greta McClain, Silent No Longer
  • Disaster Relief Volunteer Award: Maria Amado, Community Resource Center

###

About the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards

The Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards are named in memory of the late Mary Catherine Strobel, known for her extensive and charitable efforts toward improving the lives of Middle Tennessee’s homeless, impoverished and less fortunate populations. The annual awards ceremony celebrates her service and recognizes those who continue her legacy. View all nominees for the 2020 awards.

About Hands On Nashville

Hands On Nashville (HON) builds capacity for individuals and agencies to meet needs through service. Its programs connect volunteers to opportunities supporting 140-plus nonprofits, schools and other civic organizations; help these partners reimagine volunteer potential; and bring awareness to the challenges facing the people and places in our community. For more information, visit HON.org or call (615) 298-1108.

Host a voting party to select your favorite stories of service during the Strobel Awards!

Each year, Hands On Nashville celebrates Middle Tennessee’s outstanding volunteers through the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards. More than 140 nominations have been narrowed down to 21 finalists, and now it’s time for you to weigh in!  

You can help ensure these inspiring stories are seen widely by hosting a voting party for friends, family, or colleagues. Act fast because voting closes on June 15!

How to host a voting party in three easy steps: 

1) Schedule a 30-minute event (virtual or in person, but you will need tech to vote) with your guests. This is plenty of time to read all of the great stories, vote for your favorite volunteer in each category, and share on social media. Here is some language to use in the invite if you’d like: Join me for a voting party! Let’s get inspired by Nashville’s amazing volunteers and help them win $1,000 to donate to the charity of their choice. You can also win a $250 Target gift card! Here is the voting page if you want a sneak peak!  

2) During the event, encourage participants to share their favorite stories, favorite volunteers, and favorite agencies. This should be a fun, inspiring, high-energy voting party. Ask if guests have their own inspiring stories to share.   

3) Reserve the last 5 to 10 minutes to ensure that all participants vote for one finalist in each category and then share their excitement/choice on social media — being sure to tag @HONashville. Consider posting a “group photo” from your voting party, too! 

Things to remember: 

  • You can vote for your favorite volunteer once/day from now through June 15. 
  • Each vote automatically enters you into a drawing to win a $250 Target gift card.  
  • The award recipient in each category will receive $1,000 to donate to the nonprofit agency of their choice! 
  • The lucky gift card winner and the Strobel Award recipients will be announced on July 1.

Announcing the 2021 Strobel Volunteer Awards finalists

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 1, 2021) – Hands On Nashville is pleased to announce the finalists for the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, presented by Jackson National Life Insurance Company. The 2021 Strobel Awards honor volunteers from 2020 – which saw a devastating tornado, tragic bombing and struggles from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Winners will be announced July 1 on HON’s website, social channels, and Lightning 100.

“We knew all throughout 2020 that there were extraordinary acts of service happening, so this year’s nominations did not disappoint,” said Hands On Nashville President and CEO Lori Shinton. “It was a tough year for so many but volunteers went above and beyond, and we’re so excited to honor them during this year’s Strobel Awards.”

The Strobel Volunteer Awards honor volunteers of all ages and backgrounds for significant community service achievements. This year’s celebration is being held online, and community members are invited to visit hon.org/strobel2021 to show support and vote for their favorite stories of service between June 1-15.

HON introduced two new categories this year — Social Justice Impact Volunteer and Disaster Volunteer — to acknowledge the extraordinary volunteer work that took place in 2020. A screener panel read more than 135 nominations and narrowed them down to three finalists in each category.

The finalists are:

Direct Service Volunteer — Youth

  • Hannah Bodoh
  • Sydnee Floyd
  • Ian Hooper

Click here to read the Direct Service — Youth stories of service

Direct Service Volunteer — Adult

  • Teaka Jackson
  • Laura Prechel
  • Savanna Starko

Click here to read the Direct Service — Adult stories of service

Direct Service Volunteer — Older Adult

  • Dennis Caffrey
  • Kathy Halbrooks
  • Stephen Kohl

Click here to read the Direct Service — Older Adult stories of service

Capacity-building Volunteer

  • Jena Altstatt
  • Corrie Anderson
  • Suzanne Hartness

Click here to read the Capacity-building Volunteer stories of service

Group Volunteer Service

  • Bridge Builders Program,
  • Charlotte Heights Church of Christ
  • Open Table Nashville’s Winter Canvassing Team

Click here to read the Group Volunteer Service stories of service

Social Justice Impact Volunteer

  • Greta McClain
  • Meredith McKinney
  • Donna Pack

Click here to read the Social Justice Impact Volunteer stories of service

Disaster Relief Volunteer

  • Maria Amado
  • Office of Emergency Management Emergency Support Unit
  • Nicholas Renfroe

Click here to read the Direct Relief Volunteer stories of service

Thank you to our generous sponsors!

Strobel Finalists 2021: Disaster Relief

Congratulations to these three finalists in the Disaster Relief category of the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until June 15 at the button below!

Maria Amado

Maria Amado
Volunteers with The Community Resource Center

When the March 3, 2020, tornadoes hit, Maria Amado headed straight to the Community Resource Center, set up a workspace, and has barely left since. As the CRC’s board chair, she was already well positioned to help advance CRC’s mission of meeting basic needs in the Middle Tennessee community. But when 2020 brought multiple disasters to Nashville, Amado’s support for the resource hub kicked into overdrive. 

She answered phones, did interviews, unloaded trucks, took supplies to their destinations, organized hundreds of volunteers, secured donations of tons of items, and even learned how to drive a forklift so she could be even more useful in the CRC’s warehouse.  

“Maria lives and breathes the mission of volunteerism,” says her nominator, Cindie Burkett. “Her passion for what she does sets her apart and the community knows her by her first name for the support she has provided.” 

When COVID-19 hit Middle Tennessee, many organizations and businesses paused operations. The Community Resource Center — which, at the time, had just one paid employee: their executive director — ramped up its response with Maria’s help and distributed tens of thousands of hygiene and cleaning kits to the community, as well as personal protective equipment and other items that were hard to find in the spring of 2020.

CRC became aware of 300 local military members slated to return from overseas deployment who were to begin quarantine. These soldiers had only what was in their rucksacks — no linens for their beds. Amado personally spent six hours on the phone securing 300 sets of bedding — sheets, pillows, and blankets that could be delivered in 48 hours.  

When a bomb went off downtown on Christmas Day, Amado left her family and went to the CRC warehouse. Phone outages made it impossible to contact CRC’s executive director, so Amado became the sole contact for the Office of Emergency Management, and helped lead CRC’s efforts to provide food and supplies to first responders, federal agents, and survivors.  

“I cannot remember a time when I was not volunteering,” Amado says. “It has been a part of my family’s life, my life, even as a child. Helping others empowers us, grounds us, feeds us intellectually and spiritually. The more we learn about the challenges our neighbors face, the easier it is for us to be the change we want to see — for us to create healthy, stable productive happy communities.”

•••

Emergency Support Unit volunteers

Emergency Support Unit
Nashville Office of Emergency Management

Nashville’s Office of Emergency Management Emergency Support Unit (OEM ESU) is a group of a couple dozen trained individuals who provide critical services for the city — all while many Nashvillians don’t realize they are volunteers! 

Nashville’s Dive Rescue team, which handles all water rescues and recoveries — all volunteers. Nashville’s Swift Water rescue team that recently saved dozens of people during flooding — volunteers. The K9 search and rescue team that searched the rubble on 2nd Avenue for survivors after the Christmas Day bombing — volunteers. And the weather/disaster response team that helped lead recovery efforts after the March 2020 tornado — volunteers. Working alongside police, fire, and emergency medical technicians, the more than 40 men and women on the team are sometimes overlooked, because when people see them in uniform or in the news, they don’t realize these highly-trained first responders have other 9-to-5 jobs, yet put hundreds of hours in each year responding to whatever weather or emergency disasters our city faces.  

During the tornado, this team was heavily involved with coordinating response and recovery efforts — everything  from search and rescue to connecting survivors with resources and helping provide recovery services. When the bombing happened on Second Avenue, the team deployed to search for survivors in the rubble. The team is called out regularly to help with weather-related incidents and water-related accidents.  

This team of volunteers — who come from all walks of life — has literally saved dozens of lives, helped provide physical and logistical support during disasters to Nashville residents, and regularly provides the city with services it would not otherwise have. OEM ESU saves the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by volunteering their services, as a majority of its members volunteer more than 200 hours a year. 

“Many of our members are native Nashvillians with deep ties to this community,” says ESU’s David Crane. “Some knew Ms. Strobel and her lifetime commitment to service. We consider it an honor and privilege to be included in the list of finalists for this award bearing her name and legacy.”

•••

Nicholas Renfroe

Nicholas Renfroe
Volunteered in North Nashville to assist with tornado response

When a tornado ripped through Middle Tennessee in the wee hours of March 3, 2020, Belmont senior Nicholas Renfroe immediately sprang into action. He contacted his neighbors, church board members, and fellow Belmont students,  and organized a day of service. In just 48 hours, Renfroe connected 250 volunteers and arranged to shuttle them from his South Nashville church to help survivors in North Nashville clean up their devastated neighborhoods. 

Renfroe then organized a monthlong dropoff where members of his church could donate essential items and nonperishable food to displaced North Nashvillians. More than 1,200 toiletries, articles of clothing, infant items, and more were distributed to survivors over the following weeks.  

When COVID-19 shut down churches across the region, Renfroe developed an app for his church, Lake Providence Missionary Baptist, so that members — in particular senior citizens — could stay connected and prevent loneliness and isolation. The app will continue to connect church members for years to come.  

“My faith is very important to me,” Renfroe says, “and one of the core principles of my Christian faith is services. I believe that the most common way that God answers a prayer for a miracle in the life of someone is through individuals and communities who use their gifts and talents to benefit those around them.”

Additionally, Renfroe was selected to be part of the American Cancer Society’s Men Wear Pink Campaign in October to raise awareness of breast cancer. Renfroe baked cakes and pies to sell and raised more than $2,000.  

“What sets Nick apart is his willingness to meet a need even while he has other obligations to attend to,” says his nominator. “He was a senior in college, working a full-time job, and had other social and personal obligations. Time and time again, when a need arises, Nick will stop what he is doing to help.” 

To see a full list of the nominees for the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.

Strobel Finalists 2021: Social Justice Impact

Congratulations to these three finalists in the Social Justice Impact category of the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until June 15 at the button below!

Donna Pack

Donna Pack 
Volunteers with The Community Resource Center of Nashville and The Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE) 

Donna Pack serves more than 20 hours a week for the refugee community around Nashville, working closely with the Community Resource Center of Nashville, (CRC) and The Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE). For the volunteers and the organizations she serves, they have lovingly nicknamed her “St. Donna of Nolensville Road.” 

One of the areas Donna is most dedicated to is the residents of the Highland Apartments. Once the pandemic hit, many nonprofits were forced to pause operations. But Donna took it upon herself to continue meeting needs however she could. She connected with the Nashville Diaper Connection to get donated diapers to mothers in need, The Nashville Food Project to feed hungry families, and was committed to finding solutions to any type of problem thrown her way. She assisted with transportation, finding clothes, citizenship classes, and even delivering babies—all while navigating many different language barriers.  

Donna was inspired to begin working with refugees because of her daughter. Together they connected with The Lost Boys Foundation of Nashville, and since then Donna says their holiday tables have never looked the same.    

“These young men led me into a place of being a mom for their new life in America,” Donna says.  


“Once these relationships were established, many others followed from other countries as I became involved with resettlement.” 

Donna reunited more than one family with their loved ones over the past year. Her nominator shared a story of a mother in Nashville whose young son was stuck in Honduras. He attempted immigrating to Texas through many dangerous means, and was eventually connected with NYC Catholic Charities to provide him a flight to Nashville. After seeing a worried mother reunite with her son, Donna and her nominator agree, it’s something you could never forget.  

“My life is richer and deeper than I ever believed possible…food, culture and certainly new family continues to be grafted into my life,” Donna says. “We laugh and cry together, celebrate and mourn. I am very lucky to ‘do life’ with my immigrant and refugee family.” 

•••

Meredith McKinney  

Meredith McKinney  
Volunteers with Book’em 

Volunteer Meredith McKinney created The Black Book Project, an initiative designed to get diverse books into the hands of Nashville’s kids. The Project aimed to bring in more books featuring children of color characters onto Book’em bookshelves, and raise awareness about the importance of children seeing themselves in the books they read, and celebrate the authors and publishers working to provide more diverse representation in children’s literature. 

Her original goal was to donate 500 books through community donations. But, word about Meredith’s project quickly spread, and within six weeks she had brought in more than 1,000 diverse children’s books. She spread her mission through Amazon Wishlists, Facebook, and creating a weekly author spotlight where she chatted with black authors on social media, and caught the attention of publishers and other organizations working on similar efforts. 

“I was drawn to volunteer and sit on the board of directors to offer service to an organization that I feel is making a massive difference in the lives of children across the city of Nashville,” Meredith says. “Literacy is a challenge for many children, and for over 1,000 children in Nashville to receive a book that represents them has impacted my life profoundly, to the point where I have committed to keep this work going!” 

Meredith’s nominator says her commitment to prioritizing diversity has expanded Book’em’s program in a way it has never grown before, and added a layer of understanding and value for the children they serve to help better provide for them. 

“Meredith was the project leader, donating her precious spare time with a full-time job and family to manage the initiative,” her nominator says. “The Black Book Project only happened, and became such a success, because of Meredith and her consistent, courageous work.” 

•••

Greta McClain 

Greta McClain 
Volunteers with Silent No Longer 

Greta McClain is one of the volunteer founders of Silent No Longer Tennessee (SNLT), a nonprofit started by survivors of sexual violence, for sexual assault survivors. 

SNLT’s mission is to support, empower and advocate for sexual assault survivors through the creation of safe spaces for survivors to share their story in creative ways, to provide survivors, allies and advocates the skills required to organize and advocate for themselves and others, and to dismantle stereotypes and erode the systemic causes of sexual violence through awareness, education, and the legislative process. 

Greta is open about her history as a sexual assault survivor, and uses her experience to now mentor, advocate, and counsel sexual assault survivors nationwide.  

“I can’t change what happened, but what I can change is how I react to that experience and how I use it to help others,” Greta says. “I firmly believe that is why God left me on this earth, and I honor Him by doing the work every day until we end sexual violence.” 

Greta has also begun a podcast to further discuss social justice issues, interview activists on the front lines, and speak with musicians who use their music to inspire and create a better world.  She records the her podcast, “Tones of Justice,” with her co-host, Nadeem S EL. 

In addition to her work with SNLT, Greta volunteers for Enough Is Enough, Indivisible TN 2.0 , Women’s March Tennessee, Everyday Revolutionaries, Cold Patrol, Black Lives Matter, Dream Networkers, and many other groups, charities and nonprofit organizations. 

“Being nominated for the Mary Catherine Strobel award is a huge honor, and was very surprising,” Greta says. “I’ve known about Mrs. Strobel’s dedication to the community, especially the unhoused community, since I was in high school and I have admired her for years.  I am extremely humbled to be nominated, and even more so to be a finalist.” 

To see a full list of the nominees for the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.