A day on, not a day off: Spend your MLK Day helping others

This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 20 marks the 25th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the civil rights leader’s life and legacy. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.

Below we’ve rounded up a list of MLK Day service projects led by HON AmeriCorps members. (To view a full list of HON’s January opportunities, click here.)

If you serve on MLK Day, we want to know! Share your stories on social media using the hashtags #MLKDay and #DayON25.

Pick up litter to keep waterways clean
Richland Creek Watershed Alliance
Minimum age: 18, or 12 with an adult
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 20

Collect your free, reusable #grabthelitter bag and volunteer with Richland Creek Watershed Alliance (RCWA) and pick up litter along the Richland Creek Greenway or in your local neighborhood. Learn how to prevent litter from washing into local streams, creeks, and rivers, and reuse your #grabthelitter bag to continue volunteering all year long.

Assemble furniture for McGruder Family Resource Center
Hands On Nashville
Minimum age: 18
When: 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Jan. 20

Build lounge and rocking chairs, side tables, and storage units to help McGruder Family Resource Center spruce up their patio and computer lab areas. These items will allow for easy organization of supplies and offer families that frequent McGruder comfortable places to relax and work. Volunteers should wear closed-toe shoes and dress comfortably.

Plant a tree and beautify an assisted living center
Cumberland River Compact
Minimum age: 18 or 1 with an adult
When: 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Jan. 20

Get ready to get a little dirty and plant some trees with the Cumberland River Compact. Gloves, tools and snacks will be provided. Volunteers are asked to wear closed-toe shoes and bring reusable water bottles.

Round up and recycle with Oak Hill residents
Tennessee Environmental Council
Minimum age: 18 or 12 with an adult
When: 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 20

Help educate and assist residents of Oak Hill in recycling at The Tennessee Environmental Council’s recycle round up. Residents will learn about their community’s recycling policies and help residents sort their hard-to-recycle materials (like computers, clothes, and phones.) Volunteers will monitor the recycling and composting stations, and help participants unload recyclables from their vehicles.

Provide shade and filter pollution by planting trees
Nashville Tree Foundation
Minimum age: 16 or 6 with an adult
When: 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 18

Trees are being planted at three different Metro Nashville Public School locations in East Nashville. (See the separate registration pages in the link above!) This event is an annual, family-friendly tree planting with the Nashville Tree Foundation. These trees make Nashville a greener community by creating an oxygen-rich environment, and reducing flooding by absorbing great amounts of ground water.

Donate needed items for young adults experiencing homelessness
Hands On Nashville
Minimum age: 18 or 1 with an adult
When: Ongoing though Jan. 17

It only takes a few minutes, but donating electronics, art supplies, personal care items, bottled water, and gift cards can have a big impact for those served by Nashville Launch Pad. Items can be donated at the Hands On Nashville office, 37 Peabody St., before Jan. 18. Read the full list of requested items here.

 

 

Hands On Nashville’s 2019 Guide to Holiday Volunteer Opportunities

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Looking for ways to give back to the community this holiday season? We’ve got you covered. Check out the volunteer opportunities below, followed by a list of several of our partners’ holiday in-kind needs too! Thank you for your support of Middle Tennessee’s nonprofits.

To view even more volunteer opportunities, visit our calendar.

2019 Holiday Volunteer Opportunities

Be Santa’s little helper and an event guide
Cheekwood Estate and Gardens
Minimum age: 16
When: Nov. 27 through Jan. 5

Celebrate the holiday season by serving at Cheekwood’s magical Holiday Lights event. The gardens are transformed into a winter wonderland designed to create an unforgettable, immersive, and engaging experience that has become a favorite Nashville holiday tradition. Volunteers help as event guides, Santa’s helper, art activity host, and more. Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, bottled water, and hand warmers are provided.

Wrap Christmas presents at Parnassus Books
Book’em
Minimum age: 18
When: Nov. 29 through Dec. 23

Each holiday season, Book’em partners with Parnassus Books to provide gift wrappers in the store. Book’em volunteers wrap customers’ books for free, and tips are accepted for their service, with all proceeds benefitting Book’em and their mission to bring kids and books together.

Warm up your vocal cords and carol for a cause with Fannie Battle
Fannie Battle Day Home for Children
Minimum age: 18, or 12 months and older with an adult
When: Dec. 1 through Dec. 24

Caroling for Kids is a creative and fun way to raise money and awareness for Fannie Battle. Volunteers can participate in traditional caroling, or through the new initiative, digital caroling, where volunteers can raise money online through JustGiving’s platform. These events make a huge impact in helping Fannie Battle continue to provide high-quality, affordable childcare, as well as programs dedicated to empowering families.

Support veterans by volunteering at the Building Lives Christmas Sale
Building Lives
Minimum age: 18, or 16 with an adult
When: Dec. 3 through Dec. 7

During the Building Lives Christmas Sale, shelves are stocked with toys for sale, and smiling faces are needed to help run the sale. Volunteer duties include operating a cash register, bagging and counting purchases, helping load purchases into customers’ vehicles, and keeping products stocked and orderly. All net proceeds go directly to the veterans served by Building Lives.

Direct and cheer runners at Rudolph’s Red Nose Run
Needlink Nashville
Minimum age: 18, or 16 with an adult
When: Saturday, Dec. 7

Cheer runners, help at water stations and snack tables, and generally make festive fun for runners and walkers. Volunteers will be encouraged to take photos of participants as they pass by. This event is rain or shine, so volunteers are encouraged to wear their warm, merry best in the spirit of holiday fun, and stay after the race for the Nashville Christmas Parade. NeedLink Nashville provides basic needs to people in times of crisis by providing short-term assistance and links to other resources.

Offer encouragement and event support at the Jingle Bell Run
Arthritis Foundation, Southeast Region, Tennessee
Minimum age: 13, or 8 with an adult
When: Saturday, Dec. 7

Before the Arthritis Foundation’s signature race, help organizers set up, register runners, and, afterward, assist with cleanup. The Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run is a festive race for charity where participants can strut their stuff in their favorite holiday costume and feel good about doing good.

Act as an Angel Tree liaison at local malls with the Salvation Army
Salvation Army
Minimum age: 15, certain opportunities 12 with an adult
When: Ongoing though Dec. 20

Give out and document Angels and who they are assigned to, process gifts as donors return their gift bags filled with presents, and locate and distribute gifts to Angel Tree families before the holidays begin. The Salvation Army has opportunities to serve with the Angel Tree program at multiple locations this holiday season, with flexible hours available.

Deliver hot meals on Christmas Day
Nashville CARES
Minimum age: 18
When: Wednesday, Dec. 25

Spend two hours of Christmas Day delivering meals to those who need them. Delivery drivers will be picking up routes and hot meals to deliver to client homes all in a similar area. Nashville CARES is the premier caregiver in the region for treating clients living with, or at risk for, HIV/AIDS.

Be a Holiday Hero with Youth Villages
Youth Villages
Minimum age: 18, or 5 with an adult
When: Ongoing

Youth Villages has individually scheduled opportunities to spread holiday cheer through a gift drive, collecting donated presents, decorating porches for kids in foster care, stuffing holiday stockings, and more.

2019 Holiday In-Kind Needs

Many of Hands On Nashville’s Community Partners accept donated items. Here’s a holiday wishlist for several of our partners. To donate items, contact the agency directly and please let the agencies know that Hands On Nashville sent you.

American Red Cross
Contact:
Tonya Glasgow, Tonya.glasgow@redcross.org, 615-393-2500
Needs: Blank holiday cards and envelopes that deployed service members can send back home.
How to donate: Please send sets of blank cards/envelopes to:
American Red Cross
Tonya Glasgow
2201 Charlotte Ave., Nashville TN, 37203

Book’em
Contact:
Stacey Vanyo, stacey@bookem-kids.org, 615-255-1820
Website: bookem-kids.org/donate/
Needs: Book donations of new and like-new books through book drives or their charity list on Amazon.
How to donate: Please call 615-255-1820 to schedule a drop-off time. Donations can be brought to the office at 161 Rains Avenue, Nashville TN, 37203. Book’em is located inside the Nashville Public Television building.

FiftyForward
Contact:
Robin Johnson, rjohnson@fiftyforward.org, 615-743-3424
Needs: FiftyForward is looking for holiday gifts for older adults served by Supportive Care programs. Donors will be provided with an individualized wish list and asked to purchase items valued at approximately $100.

Additionally, FiftyForward appreciates:

• Commercially available, boxed snack cakes for distribution with Thanksgiving and Christmas day meal deliveries.

• Single-serve canned goods with pop-tops for seniors’ emergency food needs via the Fresh/Meals on Wheels program.

• Donations to fill the daily needs closet, which the organization uses to distribute items to low-income seniors it serves: Toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and basic toiletries.

How to donate: Please call or e-mail in advance to confirm quantities needed and to arrange for dropoff of items. Items may generally be delivered to the FiftyForward Patricia Hart Building at 174 Rains Ave., Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Heimerdinger Foundation
Contact: volunteer@hfmeals.org or (615) 730-5632
Needs: three vegetable peelers, two box graters, two zesters, two spiralizers, latex gloves of all sizes, gallon size ziplock bags, sharpies, colored pens, four full-size hotel pans, brazier with lid, stock pot with lid.
How to donate: Contact The Heimerdinger Foundation for more information.

Preston Taylor Ministries
Contact:
Bethany Jones, bethany@prestontaylorministries.org, 615-963-3996
Needs: Items ($5-10) to stock the stores for Wrapping Parties, including:

• Gifts for mothers, grandmothers, aunts, etc.: jewelry, body sprays, lotions, soaps, hair accessories, frames, trinkets, holiday decorations, scarves, nail polish, candles, etc.

• Gifts for fathers, grandfathers, uncles, etc.: neckties, bowties, hats, baseball caps, sports paraphernalia (Titans, Predators, Grizzlies, Sounds), watches, wallets, cologne, tools, flash lights.

• Gifts for children: toys, baby toys, cars, action figures, baby dolls, stuffed animals, bouncy balls, party favors, bubbles, coloring books, sports equipment, games (traditional and electronic), puzzles, movies, etc.

• Additional ideas: books, coffee cups, mugs, gloves, mittens, beanies, sunglasses, socks, slippers, umbrellas.

How to donate: Please contact Bethany at bethany@prestontaylorministries.org before dropping off. Deliveries should be brought to 4014 Indiana Ave., Nashville TN, 37209.

Youth Villages
Contact:
Julie Abbott, julie.abbott@youthvillages.org, 615-250-7266
Needs: Holiday stockings filled with hygiene items; new toys, games, books, journals/pens for teens; nonperishable food and grocery gift cards for holiday food baskets.
How to donate: Please drop all items off by Dec. 6 at 3310 Perimeter Hill Dr., Nashville TN, 37211.

Happy birthday, GeekCause!

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It’s been a year since GeekCause joined Hands On Nashville to help address crucial tech needs at local nonprofits. GeekCause is a skilled-volunteerism initiative that matches Nashville’s most talented techies with community partners in need of their services.

In its first year at HON, GeekCause activated 67 volunteers who completed 10 projects for nine nonprofits. As of mid-November, nearly 15 projects are in progress.

“In addition to accomplishing a seemingly daunting goal of setting up a recurring donor program, the GeekCause experience was utterly delightful. I am afraid you have gained a ‘frequent flyer’ for future projects.”
— Alison Gower, Executive Director of Beersheba Springs Medical Clinic 

“It’s been amazing to help nonprofits begin to see how they can leverage technology to make their lives better and easier, to improve their reach, and to better use resources,” says Monica Weiss-Sharp, HON’s Director of Skilled Volunteer Engagement.

The projects completed by GeekCause volunteers in the past year — data funnel/dashboard buildouts, Salesforce trainings, website updates, and more — carry a combined market value of $51,000.

The value proposition is clear: Nonprofits are able to get high-quality tech help for a fraction of the price it would cost them through an IT firm. But it’s not just nonprofits that benefit from the GeekCause model. The initiative also opens up a new path to volunteerism for busy professionals. More than 200 volunteers with a variety of tech skills have signed up and are ready to be paired with a project that matches their interests and skills.

“I love that this idea exists. It’s so great to be able to use a skill to help someone in need of that skill.”
— Blake Crozier, GeekCause volunteer

“GeekCause is redefining what it means to volunteer,” Weiss-Sharp says. “These projects give highly skilled people a way to donate their time and their talents doing something to address issues that are important to them.”

How GeekCause Works

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Engage with GeekCause

Nonprofits: Got a tech challenge? Request a consultation! Our team will talk through your issue and help you get a better idea of the solutions skilled tech volunteers could offer.

Tech-savvy folks: Want to be a GeekCause volunteer? Sign up here! Don’t worry — just because you sign up as a GeekCause volunteer doesn’t mean we’ll automatically assign you projects. We work with our volunteers to find the right project and right timeline for each individual.

For anyone with questions: Drop a note to Monica Weiss-Sharp!

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Hands On Nashville welcomes Starbucks fellows

Hands On Nashville is excited to welcome David Bradley and MaryBeth Konkowski to the team. David and MaryBeth are part of the Starbucks Foundation Service Fellows Program, a culmination of efforts from Points of Light and The Starbucks Foundation, created to help nonprofits build capacity while giving employees a chance to get more involved in their communities. Through the program, 100 Starbucks employees will serve for six months at agencies in 20 cities across the United States.  

David Bradley

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Why Hands on Nashville? 

I started at Starbucks because it does a lot of secular good, just for the sake of being good. When I found out about the Starbucks Service Fellows program, and looked up Hands On Nashville, it seemed like Starbucks’ mission to do good lined up with HON’s mission.

How do you hope to grow throughout this term of service? 

I would like to increase my knowledge of the nonprofit world in general. I don’t have a nonprofit background; however, I have always been interested in social change and social theory. I’m currently working on a minor in sociology, but rather than just reading theories and understanding why things are wrong, I’d like to be a part of how to make things better.

What is one of your most memorable experiences as a volunteer?

I did a river cleanup with the Cumberland River Compact in Gallatin, Tennessee. We were able to go into the water beds and pull massive amounts of construction waste out of the river. A week later, CRC followed up with us, reporting exactly how much trash we pulled out. It was cool to see the extent of the impact we had on the health of the river.


MaryBeth Konkowski

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Why Hands on Nashville? 

I was really excited when I found out we would be working with Hands On Nashville! I moved here after graduating from college and found it difficult to make friends. HON was an organization that I used to get involved with the community, find volunteer opportunities, and meet some good friends.

How do you hope to grow throughout this term of service?

I was in the corporate world for a while, and it’s always been interesting to me how nonprofits get the funding to do the things they want to do, all while supporting other nonprofits. I’m interested in learning more about the behind-the-scenes of how a nonprofit operates.

What is one of your most memorable experiences as a volunteer?

My mom and dad instilled a heart of service in me at a young age. One of the earliest memories I have of volunteering was being toted along by my mother, who was volunteering at a senior care center near my hometown. I was too young to volunteer, but I remember sitting and listening to these older women talk and tell funny stories. Looking back, I have warm, fuzzy feelings and it makes me realize how spending time at this care center really warmed my heart.

 

Resolve to Serve Stories: Shower The People

JohnSabo
John Sabo has been volunteering with Shower The People for a little over a year.

Every week, John Sabo drives across town and parks next to a big white bus. He packs bags of dirty towels into his car, brings them home, and plans when in his schedule he’ll fit four loads of laundry.

Sabo returns the clean, dried, and folded towels to the team at Shower The People, a nonprofit whose retrofitted retired school bus acts as a mobile shower facility for people experiencing homelessness. Sabo picks up another batch of towels, takes them home, and begins the wash cycle all over again. 

“I think it’s a necessity,” he says. “I might not be able to change the world, but I can change one situation.”   

shower the people logo

Sabo describes homelessness as a “challenging and lonely lifestyle.” His son, who experienced homelessness, died four years ago. To honor his son’s memory, Sabo dedicates time to multiple nonprofits that provide aid to people struggling with hunger and housing instability.

“John has been such an amazing blessing to our organization,” says Meredith MacLeod Jaulin, Shower the People’s Chief Administrator. “Our volunteers understand how much of a difference being clean and taking a shower can be to an individual.” 

Jaulin says those who utilize Shower The People’s mobile facilities often experience a renewed sense of dignity and self-worth. Access to better hygiene can also open doors to job opportunities and housing.

She adds that, without volunteers like Sabo, keeping operations running smoothly would be difficult.  

shower the people
Shower The People converted an old school bus into a mobile showering unit to aid people experiencing homelessness.

“My philosophy is that there are some people on the front line, like Shower The

People, that have direct contact with these individuals in need,” Sabo says, “and there are other people behind the scenes to make sure things work so the frontline people can do their jobs.” 

Sabo works closely with Jaulin to coordinate schedules, and between driving, washing, drying, and folding, Sabo gives as many as seven hours of his week to the organization.  

“It’s worth the effort to help other people,” he says. “I would just say look at what you have, then look at what other people don’t have, and see if you can make the world a little bit better place just by helping out.”   

Interested in volunteering with Shower The People? Check out their available volunteer opportunities here.

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Young volunteers pose for a photo after volunteering with Shower The People.

 Photos courtesy of Shower The People.

Check out these family-friendly Fall Break volunteer opportunities

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Whether you’re a college student home for Fall Break, or a parent looking for a wholesome (and free!) way for your kiddos to pass the time, we’re here to connect you to volunteer opportunities at lots of great Nashville organizations. The opportunities highlighted below fall between Oct. 5-13, but many agencies have opportunities available all season long. Click the title of each opportunity to learn more and sign up.

Also: look for ways to give back to your community year-round on our calendar.

1. Learn to garden while prepping for the upcoming harvest

Bellevue Edible Learning Lab Inc.
Minimum age: 16, or 4 with an adult
When: Saturdays, Oct. 5 and Oct. 12

The Bell Garden serves as a teaching and learning lab for volunteers, students of Bellevue Middle Prep, and the community. Volunteers can do a variety of things, including sow seeds and harvest plants, water and weed, work in the greenhouse, tend the chicken flock, and can and preserve fruits and veggies. The garden runs on volunteer power, and no experience is necessary.

2. Serve meals to nourish those in need

St. John’s United Methodist Church
Minimum age: 18, or 13 with an adult
When: Thursday, Oct. 10

Thursday Night Community Meals at St. Johns UMC offer free, nutritious meals in a safe, friendly, and caring environment to a diverse group of clients at risk of hunger and some experiencing homelessness. Volunteers help with last-minute preparations, serving the meal, helping clean up, and socializing with diners.

3. Maintain a Nashville treasure while learning about history

The Nashville City Cemetery Association
Minimum age: 18, or 16 with an adult
When: Saturday, Oct. 12

Enjoy the peacefulness of the Nashville City Cemetery while working to restore the grounds and prepare for winter. By clearing brush, weeding, and raking leaves, volunteers will help preserve a historical landmark, and show respect to an important piece of Nashville history. The Nashville City Cemetery Association, Inc., was formed in 1998 to protect, preserve, restore, and raise public awareness of the Nashville City Cemetery. Bring drinking water, gloves, and any gardening tools you have!

4. Take tickets at the Nashville Film Festival

The Nashville Film Festival
Minimum age: 16
When: Thursday, Oct. 3, through Saturday, Oct. 12

Lights, camera, action! The Nashville Film Festival is casting A-list volunteers to assist at its annual festival. Volunteers will usher guests to their seats, collect and distribute ballots for film judging, set up and tear down, check credentials for VIP areas and ticketed events, and provide light cleaning of theaters and VIP areas. Plus: Volunteers receive festival vouchers.

 5. Feed and socialize with school-aged children

Martha O’Bryan Center
Minimum age: 18, or 12 with an adult
When: Mondays, Oct. 7 through Nov. 18

Interact with children and families while serving a hot meal to those in the middle of a food desert. Martha O’Bryan’s Family Resource Center hosts Kid’s Café every Monday for those in need. Volunteers will help set up, serve food, and try and make the community comfortable while they share a meal together.

6. Advocate for recycling at the Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party

Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party
Minimum age: 15, or 12 with an adult
When: Saturday, Oct. 5

Help make the Pickin’ Party waste free by assisting attendees in correctly sorting their food waste into the compost bin, and all recyclables into the recycling bin. With volunteers’ help,  80 percent of waste can be recycled into new materials. Training will be provided prior to the event. The Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party combines the tastes and talents of East Nashville to help preserve one of the city’s most unique landmarks, the Cornelia Fort AirPark.

7. Cheer on cyclists with Bike MS

Bike MS
Minimum age: 12
When: Saturday, Oct. 5

Smiling faces and encouragement are needed for the Bike to Jack & Back bicycle ride. Volunteers will also help with setup, teardown, and food service. Bike MS is the fundraising cycling series of the National MS Society, and to date, has raised more than $1.3 billion to end Multiple Sclerosis.

8. Offer support at the Nashville AIDS Walk

Nashville CARES
Minimum age: 18, or 5 with an adult
When: Friday and Saturday, Oct. 4 and 5

Offering a full day of activities, the 28th annual Nashville AIDS Walk needs event volunteers. In addition to celebrating the amazing work of Nashville CARES, volunteers are asked to help set up, register walkers, hand out water, and offer assistance as hundreds of supporters come out to bring awareness to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Middle Tennessee. The Nashville AIDS walk is a family-friendly event that has raised more than $3 million for the cause. Pre-registered volunteers receive a T-shirt and lunch.

9. Create crafts with The Family Center

The Family Center
Minimum age: 18, or 1 with an adult
When: Saturday, Oct. 5

Grab your glitter and start crafting with The Family Center to make calm-down bottles for their clients. Volunteers will fill bottles with water and glitter to act as a calming mechanism. The Family Center works to break multi-generational cycles of child abuse, neglect, and trauma by providing a safe, supportive space where parents and/or their children can connect and grow.

 

HON Community Partners: Do YOU have family-friendly volunteer opportunities during Fall Break (Oct. 5-13) that aren’t featured here? Let us know so we can add them!

Celebrating AmeriCorps’ 25th Anniversary: Q&A with Hands On Nashville’s first AmeriCorps member

The AmeriCorps program celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. To commemorate the occasion, we checked in with Susannah Fotopulos, the first AmeriCorps member ever placed at Hands On Nashville. Fotopulos went on to found and direct Plant the Seed, a Nashville nonprofit that provides experiential education to children ages 4-14 through garden-based learning.

When were you an AmeriCorps member? Where did you serve and what role did you have?

In 2003 I served at Hands On Nashville as their inaugural Citizen Action AmeriCorps member. This was a specific type of indirect service position created in partnership with the HandsOn Network and designed to increase volunteer opportunities in HandsOn communities.

How did AmeriCorps prepare you to start Plant the Seed? 

My placement as the first AmeriCorps member at Hands On Nashville was during a time of rapid growth, which gave me an amazing chance to build a program from idea to delivery. It gave me a testing ground to conceive how to address a community need, deliver that program, and evaluate its effectiveness. My AmeriCorps service year was such an amazing way to grow my entrepreneurial spirit!

How does it feel to come full circle with AmeriCorps, having four members serve at your own nonprofit? 

It’s wild! I feel like having four AmeriCorps members is a cool indicator of our growth and a marker of scale and legitimacy in our ability to manage AmeriCorps members. I also see it as a way for Plant the Seed to live out our mission of being a learning organization by helping young adults develop the skills and next steps for their careers.

What’s something you are looking forward to teaching these members that you took from your own experience with AmeriCorps?  

I hope these new AmeriCorps members learn flexibility, gratitude, resilience, how to create something they can call their own, how to bring an open mind to new learning opportunities, and how to feel like they have made a legitimate difference to effect positive change in the world.

Resolve to Serve Stories: NECAT

Rhoda Scherer remembers when she first stepped into the studios of Nashville Education, Community, and Arts Television (NECAT) five years ago.

“I had no clue about television,” Scherer says. She’d been invited to visit the studio by a producer she’d met while volunteering at her niece and nephew’s school yard sale.

“I came to NECAT, I sat in on one of her productions, and I just fell in love with the studio.”

Scherer — who now produces a show called “Psychology Matters” — learned how to run the cameras, lights, and control room through NECAT’s training program.

“You learn in the classes exactly how to use everything,” Scherer says. “They make it so easy to learn.”

That’s music to the ears of former NECAT CEO Trish Crist, who adds that the technology of a TV studio is not as complicated as you might think.

“The skills are mastered pretty quickly,” she said. “Then you get to use them as part of a team to help someone else bring his vision to life and express himself on television.” Crew volunteers earn credit hours they can apply toward advanced production classes, where they can learn green screen effects and specialized camera work.

Super Intern Jay Witt
Jay Witt

NECAT’s channels currently broadcast more than 400 shows to 19 Middle Tennessee counties. Because programming is produced by community members for community members, diverse viewpoints and topics can get air time.

As Scherer, who has a psychology degree, gained experience in the studio, she knew she wanted to transition to producing her own show. She created “Psychology Matters” to focus on mental-health awareness. Her show features experts who answer questions that, often, Scherer crowdsources from her show’s Facebook audience.

For Jay Witt, another NECAT volunteer, helping others create TV shows is a powerful way to facilitate creative expression. Witt came to the studio in 2017 to attend Spring Break TV Camp. Like Scherer, he had little knowledge of TV production. Now, he manages the network’s Super Crew — which is responsible for all crew positions for the Our Nashville series, where each episode features a different nonprofit.

Witt, who’s now considering a career in film, has some advice for anyone interested in volunteering at NECAT, but who might be intimidated by what seems like a lot of technical hurdles: “Don’t be nervous at all. Even if it’s something you don’t end up loving as a future career, it’s still a great experience.”

NECAT Sports TV Camp
NECAT Sports TV Camp participants

Getting Started With NECAT

Want to dip your toes in the TV-production waters? NECAT offers a free two-night TV production class, where you will learn all the technical elements of working in a TV studio —  camera operation, video switching, audio engineering, conducting interviews, lighting design and teleprompter control.

From there, you can choose one of two pathways — for Producers or Technicians.

Technician Pathway — allows you to crew on any NECAT-produced show
$40 annual fee

Producer Pathway — allows you to book the studio and produce your own NECAT show
$80 annual fee 
• Once you’ve completed the aforementioned free production class, those who choose the Producer Pathway must take a two-night TV Pre-Production class (for a $50 one-time fee), which teaches how to organize and plan a show for success.

Super Crew with HON Our Nashville shoot
NECAT’s Super Crew (plus some HONies)

Interested in volunteering with NECAT? Check out their available opportunities here, or sign up for training courses here

Photos courtesy of NECAT.

Nashville’s Fall 2019 College Service Fairs

It’s (almost) back-to-school time! College service fairs are a great chance for your nonprofit to connect with students and share your volunteer and intern opportunities. Please email the contact listed for each school in order to register your agency.  

August 14: Fisk Volunteer Fair
11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Contact: Tashaye Woods (twoods@fisk.edu)

August 28: Vanderbilt Service Organization Fair
1-3 p.m.
Contact: Meagan Smith (meagan.smith@vanderbilt.edu)

August 28: Tigers Day Out at Tennessee State University
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Contact: Shirley Nix-Davis (snixdavi@tnstate.edu)

September 3: Trevecca Volunteer Fair
9:30-10:30 a.m.
Contact: Daniel Neiderhiser (dlneiderhiser@trevecca.edu)

September 4: Lipscomb Volunteer Fair
9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Contact: Christin Schatzer (Christin.shatzer@lipscomb.edu)

September 12: Nashville State Resource Awareness and Volunteer Day
10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Contact: Evelyn Hadley (evelyn.hadley@nscc.edu)

September 30: Belmont Community Connections Fair
10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Contact: Tim Stewart (tim.stewart@belmont.edu)

Does your Middle Tennessee college or university have a service fair you’d like us to include in this roundup? Let us know!

Resolve to Serve Stories: Nashville Dolphins

Edward McClarty hadn’t been searching for a long-term volunteering gig when he was asked to bring smoothies to the Nashville Dolphins’ Swim-a-Thon.

“I didn’t give it much thought at the time, other than it was my way of giving back to my local community,” says McClarty, who had just become the owner of a Smoothie King. “Obviously, God had other plans.”

Shortly after, McClarty began prepping for an Iron Man Triathlon, which required a lot of swimming. He was training in the Gordon Jewish Community Center’s pool — the same pool where the Nashville Dolphins were holding a swim class — when he had an idea.

“I asked if I could get in the water and assist the athletes, and it just developed from there,” he says.

The Nashville Dolphins’ mission is to enable people with special needs to experience the physical and emotional benefits of swimming. The Dolphins provide free learn-to-swim classes and a free swim team to children and adults with special needs.

“Volunteers continue to come back because they are able to see the direct impact they are having with our organization,” says Program Director Megan Kelly. “They are working with the same swimmers each week so they are able to see their growth and progress and build friendships with our swimmers.”

Ed 4 square
Edward McClarty

Since that afternoon when he got in the pool with the Dolphins, McClarty — AKA Coach Ed — has spent his Tuesday nights leading swim practice. He decides the curriculum and exercises, gets swimmers ready for practice, and conducts the drills.

“We run the swim practice just like any other swim team,” Coach Ed explains. He says he enjoys seeing what each athlete is capable of and helping them work hard to maximize their potential.

For Coach Ed, who has been swimming with the Dolphins since 2004, serving with the organization has been a spiritual endeavor.

“I’m so blessed to be a part of this. I’m so happy that the parents and the athletes want me there to participate, and I’m grateful to offer whatever it is that I offer to them.”

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with the Nashville Dolphins, express interest here

Photos provided by Nashville Dolphins.