Local software company Acklen Avenue volunteers time to develop Nashville Launch Pad app

GeekCause matches Nashville’s most talented techies with community partners in need of their services. From tech consultation to solution implementation, GeekCause provides a low-cost platform for agencies to solve tech-based challenges through the support of skilled volunteers. The HON team periodically shares fun GeekCause project highlights to help show how skilled volunteers are having an impact in the community. 

Nashville Launch Pad, an LGBTQ-affirming shelter for young adults experiencing homelessness, came to GeekCause looking for an easy way for guests to make reservations online and to begin collecting data about their visitors’ needs.

After a consultation with the GeekCause team, the nonprofit was paired with Acklen Avenue, a local software development company with a heart for service.

“Acklen Avenue treated us as they would the highest of high-end clients,” says Nashville Launch Pad Executive Director Ty Brown. “No question was unimportant, no detail too small. Everyone was friendly and able to make an extremely complex process feel simple and even fun.”

After Launch Pad and Acklen connected, the volunteer team began by assessing the nonprofit’s needs, formulating a plan, and then set to work creating a solution. The app launched in December, and volunteers have continued to make adjustments to the app as needed.

“The experience with Launch Pad was extraordinary,” says Rony Vidaur, a software engineer at Acklen. “Working on the project felt good not only because it was something we were all interested in creating, but also because we knew the project was going to be open-source, meaning our work had the potential to reach an even greater number of people.”

The AA team showed a phenomenal level of commitment to the project, Brown said. Now, it takes only a few minutes to show volunteers and clients how to use the app, and to utilize the data to continue serving clients to the best of Launch Pad’s ability.

Could your nonprofit use some tech help? Does your tech-savvy work team want to give back to the community? Learn more about GeekCause here.

Show of Hands Week Day 7: Support volunteerism and HON during The #BigPayback

Between May 1-7, Hands On Nashville will highlight ways to stay connected and serve your neighbors even as our community honors social distancing guidelines. Check back here and on our social media channels to join in our #ShowOfHandsWeek: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

During the first week of March, 26,000 volunteers raised their hands in a massive show of support for their neighbors. Our city began its recovery: one brick, one meal, one neighborhood at a time.

One thing we know: We would do it all again in a heartbeat.  

But we know something else, too. The needs in our community didn’t begin with the tornado, or a flood, or any other disaster. And they won’t go away when disaster recovery efforts end.

And neither will we.

Today, during The #BigPayback, we ask you invest in Hands On Nashville and our vision for a city made #StrongerThroughService.

One brick, one meal, one volunteer at a time.

For 29 years, it’s been Hands On Nashville’s great honor to partner with countless individuals and agencies in the movement to make our city a better place to live and work. Thank you for joining us.

TODAY’S ACTIVITIES (MAY 7): Support volunteerism and Hands On Nashville during The Big Payback

For a week, we’ve been sharing creative and fun ways to stay connected to your neighbors through kindness and service. Today we’re asking for your help so that we can ensure a bright future for volunteerism in Middle Tennessee.

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#ShowOfHandsWeek Activities

While #ShowOfHandsWeek is officially coming to a close, you can revisit these activities and opportunities for inspiration any time!

FRIDAY, MAY 1: Raise your hand and tell us why you choose to be a helper

SATURDAY, MAY 2: Sign up to serve as a volunteer in May

SUNDAY, MAY 3: Bring color and hope to a neighbor with flowers 

MONDAY, MAY 4: Join the local mask-making effort

TUESDAY, MAY 5: Give thanks for those on the front lines

WEDNESDAY, MAY 6: Find a virtual volunteer opportunity

THURSDAY, MAY 7: Support volunteerism and Hands On Nashville via The Big Payback

 

Show of Hands Week Day 6: Virtual Volunteering

Between May 1-7, Hands On Nashville will highlight ways to stay connected and serve your neighbors even as our community honors social distancing guidelines. Check back here and on our social media channels to join in our #ShowOfHandsWeek: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

For Nashville’s nonprofit organizations, it has become increasingly important to continue meeting community needs while supporting volunteers and keeping them as safe and healthy as possible. Many organizations have come up with creative ways people can volunteer from the comfort of their own homes.

TODAY’S ACTIVITIES (MAY 6): Find a Virtual Volunteer Opportunity

These activities support organizations working to meet the needs of their communities here and afar through virtual volunteerism.

#ShowOfHandsWeek Activities

FRIDAY, MAY 1: Raise your hand and tell us why you choose to be a helper

SATURDAY, MAY 2: Sign up to serve as a volunteer in May

SUNDAY, MAY 3: Bring color and hope to a neighbor with flowers 

MONDAY, MAY 4: Join the local mask-making effort

TUESDAY, MAY 5: Give thanks for those on the front lines

TODAY: Find a virtual volunteer opportunity

THURSDAY, MAY 7: Support volunteerism and Hands On Nashville via The Big Payback

 

Show of Hands Week Day 5: Give Thanks

Between May 1-7, Hands On Nashville will highlight ways to stay connected and serve your neighbors even as our community honors social distancing guidelines. Check back here and on our social media channels to join in our #ShowOfHandsWeek: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

It’s Giving Tuesday, and we’re taking a moment to give thanks. For our volunteers. For our community partners. For all those who are keeping us safe, healthy, and connected.

We are thankful for the healthcare workers who are keeping us healthy, battling the illness, and comforting our loved ones we can’t visit at the moment. Thank you to the first responders who are keeping our communities safe. Thank you to the farm workers and grocery store employees who are keeping us fed, and the people powering food pantries and transporting meals to those in need.

Have you received some packages lately? Send some love to the postal service and deliverymen who bring us joy directly to the mailbox, and be grateful for the waste services workers who have continued to come by and pick up our trash and recycling. 

Times are tough right now, but we have so much to be grateful for. We hope you’ll join us in thanking the Nashville community – let’s spread gratitude far and wide!

TODAY’S ACTIVITIES (MAY 5): Giving Thanks

Let someone know how much you appreciate themWho are you giving thanks for today? If you’re sending a letter or card, take a photo and tag us (and them!) on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook so wecan double your thanks.

  1. Send a digital thank-you: A social media shoutout is an easy and highly visible way to thank individuals, companies, and agencies, especially if you tag them or use a hashtag (#FrontlineHeroes). If you have someone’s email address — like your child’s teachers — you can send them a personal note or a cute card from a free resource like Paperless Post.
  2. Leave a note on your porch or in your mailbox: For delivery drivers who can’t be tipped with cash (think FedEx or UPS drivers, or your neighborhood postal worker), a sincere note of thanks on the porch or in the mailbox can brighten a day.
  3. Send a sweet note in the mail: This is something you can do for employees powering public agencies or essential businesses you’d like to thank. Click here for a roundup of mailing addresses for utility workers and hospitals. And if you run out of stamps? No need to head to the post office; you can order them online here.
  4. Feed someone on the front lines: Thank-you cards are always a great and appreciated idea, but for those in essential roles, a meal might be even more appreciated. Feed The Front Line is coordinating a massive effort to feed those who need it most. Go here to learn how you can help.

#ShowOfHandsWeek Activities

FRIDAY, MAY 1: Raise your hand and tell us why you choose to be a helper

SATURDAY, MAY 2: Sign up to serve as a volunteer in May

SUNDAY, MAY 3: Bring color and hope to a neighbor with flowers 

MONDAY, MAY 4: Join the local mask-making effort

TODAY: Give thanks for those on the front lines

WEDNESDAY, MAY 6: Find a virtual volunteer opportunity

THURSDAY, MAY 7: Support volunteerism and Hands On Nashville via The Big Payback

 

Show of Hands Week Day 4: Join the local mask-making movement

Between May 1-7, Hands On Nashville will highlight ways to stay connected and serve your neighbors even as our community honors social distancing guidelines. Check back here and on our social media channels to join in our #ShowOfHandsWeek: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

MasksNOW is a nationwide grassroots organization that sprang up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The local chapter — MasksNOW TN — has received requests for more than 12,000 masks from more than 26 facilities and essential workers across Tennessee, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

You don’t have to be a sewist to volunteer with MasksNOW, as there are many types of roles that help power their efforts, including fundraising and administrative tasks. Register now and join the more than 118 Tennessee volunteers who already have signed up.

We talked with Brenda Gadd and Katrina Henderson, the Tennessee state leads for MasksNOW, to discuss their organization and how individuals can get involved.

Can you tell me more about what types of volunteer roles you’re looking for? 

BG: We definitely need sewists. We’ve had over 10,000 calls for masks — and that’s being conservative — so we do need sewists doing the work, but there’s also distribution, and needing volunteers to pick up materials or have them mailed. The more sewists we get, the more capacity we will have and the more entities we can reach out to.

How did you begin recruiting volunteers for MasksNOW TN?

BG: We quickly found there are a lot of folks out there who want to help, or who are already sewing but they need to know how to connect with resources. That’s really what this does in a simple way — it allows the volunteers to take control of what they want to do and match with the need. Once we get a volunteer in our system, we can get you materials and match you with donations.  

Can you tell me a little more about the masks?

KH: These masks are for anyone and everyone; we don’t discriminate about who we give them to. We are doing a lot of work with Room In The Inn, the homeless population in Nashville, and they’re all free.

BG: Right. We don’t sell them, these are all volunteer made, and we’ve been trying to collaborate with local businesses as well. We’ve set up partnerships in the community with people who donate one mask for every mask sold. 

What can volunteers expect after they sign up? 

KH: Volunteers should expect an email within 48 hours of signing up, welcoming them and telling them how it all works. They’re also welcome to reach out to me directly at KatrinaTN@masksnow.org  if they have questions.

Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

TODAY’S ACTIVITIES (MAY 4): Join the Mask Making Movement

As health officials recommend wearing face masks in certain public places, the need for widespread availability of masks is crucial. Here are three ways you can help:

  1. Volunteer: Organizations including MasksNOW and Make Nashville are sewing for a cause and aiming to slow the spread of COVID-19. If you’re interested in volunteering with one of these partner organizations, click here.
  2. Donate money or materials: Both MasksNOW and Make Nashville accept donations of money and items to help them meet their missions. Learn more about donating to Make Nashville hereLearn more about donating to MasksNOW here.
  3. Make your own masks for personal use: MasksNOW has provided patterns for those handy with a needle or without. And for some helpful safety guidelines, see the CDC’s recommendations here.

#ShowOfHandsWeek Activities

FRIDAY, MAY 1: Raise your hand and tell us why you choose to be a helper

SATURDAY, MAY 2: Sign up to serve as a volunteer in May

SUNDAY, MAY 3: Bring color and hope to a neighbor with flowers 

TODAY: Join the local mask-making effort

TUESDAY, MAY 5: Give thanks for those on the front lines

WEDNESDAY, MAY 6: Find a virtual volunteer opportunity

THURSDAY, MAY 7: Support volunteerism and Hands On Nashville via The Big Payback

Show of Hands Week Day 3: Bring Color and hope to those around you

Between May 1-7, Hands On Nashville will highlight ways to stay connected and serve your neighbors even as our community honors social distancing guidelines. Check back here and on our social media channels to join in our #ShowOfHandsWeek

The following story was sent to us by Nelda Fulgham of Nashville, who recounted the days after the 2010 flood:

“Our home of 22 years was under water (44″ deep on the 2nd floor) from the … water of the Cumberland River. For months everything around our home was the color of brown. The landscaping, the red brick on our home, the trees along River Road to our home was brown up to the flood line. We were homeless for 6 months but went to the house every day just to clean, repair and work. Seeing brown everywhere and on everything you own was so depressing. One day a lady came to our home … and brought us a small bouquet of colorful flowers. There is no way I can tell you how much those flowers meant. In a world of brown those flowers stood out like a beacon. They represented beauty and hope. We sold our home place as it was and moved to the mountain in Joelton but the … gift of flowers had so much meaning to my husband and I. Still 10 years later there has not been a day gone by when we have not had a small bouquet of flowers in our new home as a reminder of the dark days of the flood and the blessings that came out of it.”

Nelda’s story is a powerful reminder that even small acts of kindness can have an enormous impact in the world around us. And that to bring color is to bring hope. Who can you bring color and hope to today? 

TODAY’S ACTIVITIES (MAY 3): Use flowers to bring color and hope to those around you

From virtual bouquets to fresh-cut flowers, here are some ways to let someone special in your life know that they’re making a difference in your world:

    1. Doorstep delivery: Many local florists are still open for deliveries and they would love your business! Here’s a Google map of local florists. Be sure to check with individual businesses as their hours or services may be modified due to COVID-19:
    1. Decorate your driveway: Your sidewalk or driveway can become the canvas for a temporary floral art installation for everyone to enjoy. And if you run out of sidewalk chalk, here’s a cool tutorial on making sidewalk chalk paint!
    2. Create a paper bouquet: Whether they’re freshly picked or made out of paper, there’s nothing quite like opening the door to find a bunch of flowers looking up at you. Here’s a roundup of ways to make cute paper flowers. Mix and match materials and techniques, and get the kids involved!
    3. Share a virtual bouquet today:We love this quote because it’s true and timely. Right click on a computer or tap and hold on your phone to save this image and email or text to a friend, or share it from our @HONashville social media pages. Join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
      show of hands week flower insta graphics8

 

#ShowOfHandsWeek Activities

FRIDAY, MAY 1: Raise your hand and tell us why you choose to be a helper

SATURDAY, MAY 2: Sign up to serve as a volunteer in May

TODAY: Bring color and hope to a neighbor with flowers

MONDAY, MAY 4: Join the local mask-making effort

TUESDAY, MAY 5: Give thanks for those on the front lines

WEDNESDAY, MAY 6: Find a virtual volunteer opportunity

THURSDAY, MAY 7: Support volunteerism and Hands On Nashville via The Big Payback

Show Of Hands Week Day 2: Help us fill 100% of volunteer projects this month

Between May 1-7, Hands On Nashville will highlight ways to stay connected and serve your neighbors even as our community honors social distancing guidelines. Check back here and on our social media channels to join in our #ShowOfHandsWeek

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the Nashville flood. We had hoped to commemorate this important milestone with Hands On Nashville Day, a day for thousands of volunteers across the city to come together to work on projects that addressed disaster preparedness and ongoing community needs, many of which had been born out of those tumultuous waters.

Then the tornado hit.

Then COVID-19.

So today, even though we can’t gather for HON Day as we had hoped, there are still thousands of volunteers needed right now to meet urgent needs in our city. Will you lend your helping hands to fill every volunteer spot during the month of May?  

It is through serving others that we as a community can heal from profound disasters — be it the disaster of 10 years ago, two months ago, or the kind that’s affecting many of us every day in our current situation. While circumstances are undeniably difficult, we know it’s more important than ever to do whatever we can to help our neighbors. Many of our neighbors need so much.

TODAY’S ACTIVITIES (MAY 2): Sign Up and Serve

The countdown starts now: Help us fill every available volunteer opportunity for the month of May today.

☞ ☞ ☞Click here to see a roundup this month’s volunteer opportunities on hon.org.   

Curious about volunteering in light of Nashville’s Safer At Home order? Volunteer Tennessee has put together some helpful guidelines here, and HON is working with our partners to ensure that volunteer projects meet public health and safety requirements.

#ShowOfHandsWeek Activities

Join the #ShowOfHandsWeek conversation on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

FRIDAY, MAY 1: Raise your hand and tell us why you choose to be a helper

TODAY: Sign up to serve as a volunteer in May

SUNDAY, MAY 3: Bring color and hope to a neighbor with flowers

MONDAY, MAY 4: Join the local mask-making effort

TUESDAY, MAY 5: Give thanks for those on the front lines

WEDNESDAY, MAY 6: Find a virtual volunteer opportunity

THURSDAY, MAY 7: Support volunteerism and Hands On Nashville via The Big Payback

Show of Hands Week is all about staying connected and helping our neighbors

Ten years ago this weekend, as floodwaters receded and Nashvillians helped each other dig out and clean up, we saw the community come together to overcome mighty tragedy. The images remain forever in our collective memories: The upturned cars, the piles of debris outside houses, the strangers embracing because it all felt so overwhelming.

When, nearly 10 years later, a tornado ripped through our region, we witnessed the same immediate response: Another incredible uprising of people who, despite their own losses and heartache, wanted to help others. What we’ve seen is that it’s through service to others that our community feels more connected. A connected community is a stronger community, and our strength will help us get through our current difficult situation.

To celebrate that spirit, today we kick off a week of activities meant to highlight the ways — big and small — you can lend a hand, bring light, and give thanks to and for your neighbors. Every day here on our blog and on our social media channels between now and May 7, we’ll share ideas for how you can stay connected with your community and each another through acts of service and kindness. Play along every day, or just pick and choose which activities inspire you.

TODAY’S ACTIVITIES (MAY 1): Show of Hands  

Raise your hand if you’re a helper:  Here are three simple ways to show we’re all in this together – even from a distance.

  1. Wave hi. Tip your hat. Give a thumbs up. Whether it’s a new neighbor or an old friend, this #ShowOfHands helps us connect with every person we pass on our daily walk or drive.
  2. You’ve seen rainbows and teddy bears, and now here is a #showofhands for your window. For kids at home and kids at heart, we’ve made a coloring page that reminds us of the importance of working together to help others. Click here to download.
  3. Share what inspires you to lend a hand – use the graphic below on social media along with your answer and tag us — @HONashville — so we can share your story. Why do you volunteer? What has serving others taught you, or how has it changed your life?  Join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

day 1 square graphics

#ShowOfHandsWeek Activities

TODAY: Raise your hand and tell us why you choose to be a helper

SATURDAY, MAY 2: Sign up to serve as a volunteer in May

SUNDAY, MAY 3: Bring color and hope to a neighbor with flowers 

MONDAY, MAY 4: Join the local mask-making effort

TUESDAY, MAY 5: Give thanks for those on the front lines

WEDNESDAY, MAY 6: Find a virtual volunteer opportunity

THURSDAY, MAY 7: Support volunteerism and Hands On Nashville via The Big Payback

 

Project Connect continues efforts to feed hungry families in North Nashville

When a tornado touched down March 3 and left a 60-mile path of devastation through Middle Tennessee,  Project Connect Nashville knew what it had to do: Serve hot meals to North Nashville residents whose neighborhoods had been badly damaged.

The day after the storm, PCN — whose mission is to build relationships with individuals stuck in a cycle of poverty and connect them to the faith community, living wage jobs, and stable housing — established a central command for recovery, food, and supplies distribution.

PCN employees Quanita Thomas and the Rev. Ella Clay were essential in startup operations. Clay offered the church at which she pastors, the Historic First Community Church at 1815 Knowles St., and Thomas assisted with making connections in the neighborhood, helping even though her own home was damaged by the storm.

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Volunteers feed those in North Nashville following the March 3 tornado. [Project Connect Nashville]
Volunteers immediately began tracking of the needs of the neighborhood’s residents: Who lived where, how many meals each house needed, and even whether a home had names to add to their ongoing prayer list. The first two weeks after the storm were the most demanding because many of the homes did not have power, said Laura Ingram, PCN’s North Nashville Location Manager.

“We have about 400 addresses of people who we try to feed multiple times a week,” Ingram said. Those residents include families and those whose mobility is limited, such as seniors and individuals with disabilities, who otherwise would not have been able to access food in the wake of the disaster.

PCN, in partnership with Just the Crumbs — a faith-based mobile food unit from Columbia, Miss. — now serves and delivers meals five days a week, and offers essential resources to the community two hours a day at its North Nashville Resource Center at 1811 Knowles Street.

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Just The Crumbs is a disaster relief ministry that has been aiding PCN with food distribution efforts in North Nashville. [Project Connect Nashville]
When COVID-19 got a foothold in Middle Tennessee two weeks after the tornado and more people began staying at home, Ingram says PCN’s volunteer numbers began to dwindle. But she and her colleagues continued their efforts.

“Serving people food was something we really felt we needed to keep doing as it’s too risky for the elderly and disabled to get out and shop for fresh foods,” Ingram says.

As a precaution, PCN is limiting volunteer groups to six people, who are asked to maintain a safe distance when delivering meals. The organization provides gloves, and volunteers are asked to bring their own masks if possible.

“These volunteers are invaluable to us because PCN feels it does take a village to love this wide variety of people and neighborhoods,” Ingram says. “It’s something we can’t do alone, but together we are able to check on everybody and make sure no one is falling through the cracks.”

The idea for Project Connect Nashville was birthed out of the 2010 flood, when PCN’s executive director, Alan Murdock, coordinated recovery in partnership with the East Nashville community through his garden center in Five Points. The organization has now opened campuses in South and North Nashville, and offers classes to provide knowledge, skills, and encouragement, while offering a faith community to support individuals through life’s joys and struggles.

To volunteer with Project Connect Nashville, sign up here. For a list of needed donations, click here.

For the Community Resource Center, volunteers are key to meeting critical needs

The days since a tornado tore through Middle Tennessee just over a month ago have been long and exhausting for Tina Doniger and Maria Amado, who serve as the executive director and board chair, respectively, of the Community Resource Center. The CRC, which regularly supplies basic essentials to agencies serving vulnerable populations in more than 24 counties, was activated following the storm to serve as Metro Nashville’s collection and distribution point for donations deployed to survivors throughout the region.

For Doniger and Amado, even though the days sometimes blur together, it’s the acts of kindness and generosity that stand out.

Amado shares the story of Levi, a 3-year-old boy who came to the center with his grandmother to drop off donations.

“Levi is about 3 and a half, 4 years old, and he is sucking his thumb,” Amado recalls, retrieving a sandwich bag of coins and dollar bills from across the room. “And he had emptied out his piggy bank. For the kids who lost their homes.”

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Joe Pollard, left, hands the keys of his newly donated truck to the Community Resource Center’s Maria Amado, center, and Tina Doniger, right.

Then there’s Joe Pollard, president of the Bank of Odessa, Mo., who, upon realizing the CRC didn’t have a box truck of their own, donated the one he had driven down to donate supplies. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that left Doniger and Amado speechless.

The stories of generosity add up — volunteers who came for two hours and stayed for two weeks, those who took time off from their own jobs to volunteer, those who donated knowledge and skills to help the CRC expand its reach — and take the shape of a community pulling together to make an impact far greater than could have been made by one or two individuals.

As COVID-19 sent shock waves through the region, complicating tornado relief efforts and compounding community needs, Doniger says the CRC has continued to evolve its disaster response to meet those rapidly shifting needs.

“The service we provide is essential for people moving forward,” says Doniger — who is the CRC’s sole paid employee. “There’s now even more added pressure on the people who have been serving, and more added pressure on us to find people to help.”

Keeping volunteers healthy is top of mind for Doniger, who says she provides every safety measure she can for volunteers. She provides gloves, masks, and disinfectant. Within the warehouse, volunteers stay apart, sorting their donations on their respective shelves. Donation drop-offs are now conducted without any person-to-person contact.

“The only way to keep going is for people to help us do the work,” Doniger said. “If we don’t continue doing what we do, we won’t be prepared to service the people. As long as we are healthy, and we can open this door, we are going to serve people no matter what.”

To aid the CRC in its mission of serving those in need, sign up to volunteer here.