Guest blog post by Kristen O’Hare
I got to know Hands On Nashville 10 years ago as a Belmont University student. Then, I would volunteer periodically and participate in events like Hands On Nashville Day, our community’s largest day of service in Metro Schools.
My real and meaningful relationship with Hands On Nashville began with a simple text message I received on May 3, 2010. It read, “Sandbaggers are needed immediately in Metro Center to stop the levee from breaking.” While my own apartment had water from Mill Creek filtering in through the front door, I felt an undeniable need to respond to that text; so, I drove to Metro Center. As I approached the volunteer site, Metro Police warned me that if the levee were to break, we’d all be in danger. With a smile and a nod, I joined dozens of other volunteers.
With the toss of my first sandbag, something inside of me changed. I could actually feel it. With every additional sandbag I touched over the next 6 hours, the pride I had looking at the volunteers around me was overwhelming. We were wet, cold, tired, and covered in sand fleas; yet we kept working. Each of us wanted to lessen the impact of the 1,000-year flood.
We came together as strangers, but we left as neighbors. For me, the dirty water from the flooded Cumberland River washed me clean.
In the weeks following the flood, I’d deliver food and water; tear down homes; and set up distribution centers. I even honed my skills driving a big rented Budget truck to deliver supplies. Volunteering had become by passion, and I was glad that Hands On Nashville provided me so many opportunities to make a difference. In fact, through my HON flood volunteerism, I connected with the Red Cross. Today, after months of training, I am a certified Red Cross first responder. I assist in a variety of disasters – from house fires to floods – and I’m grateful for the opportunity to help people when they most need me.
I am also proud to serve as a Hands On Nashville volunteer leader. One Saturday every month, I guide other volunteers in cleanup projects at the Nashville City Cemetery – our city’s oldest public cemetery. Due to its historical and architectural significance, the Nashville City Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many prominent figures are buried there – from Nashville’s founders Charlotte and James Robertson to two of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers.
This project is a perfect match for my skills. As a museum curatorial assistant at the Grand Ole Opry, I have expertise in the preservation and restoration of historic artifacts. During this project, I teach other volunteers how to slow the deterioration of headstones. By clearing away magnolia tree seeds, nuts, and other natural materials, we do our best to maintain this important piece of history.
But, for me, being a HON volunteer leader is even more than completing important service projects. When I put on my volunteer leader shirt – the one with the handprint surrounded by little circles – I do so knowing that I represent not only Hands On Nashville, but all of the volunteers that go out and give of themselves in their free time. That’s powerful.
Interested in leading a volunteer project?
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