Volunteer Spotlight: Daniel McDonell

Hands On Nashville Volunteer Daniel McDonald blowing insulation during a Home Energy Savings Project in January 2015.
Hands On Nashville Volunteer Daniel McDonell blowing insulation during a Home Energy Savings Project in January 2015.

It wasn’t long after Daniel McDonell moved to Nashville that he began volunteering. In his first year as a HON volunteer, Daniel has made a significant impact during sustainability-focused projects. We recently caught up with the Memphis native about his passion for the environment, favorite projects, and why he thinks volunteering is one way to keep the civic character of thriving town.

HON: What made you decide to volunteer?

DM: I figured volunteering would be a great way to create community through helping out people and programs that you’re passionate about. I’ve been introduced to a bunch of different organizations, seen different areas of town, and met some wonderful friends through volunteering.

HON: You’ve spent a great deal of time on HES Projects and at the Urban Farm. What drew you to these programs?

DM: Environmental sustainability is my passion. I’ve chosen it for my profession. But because that mainly involves sitting in front of a computer, I love being able to get my hands dirty. HES and the Urban Farm [projects] are sweaty, active jobs, but it’s awesome that we physically get to see what we’ve accomplished after just a few hours of volunteering.It’s really good to see homeowners saving real money in our HES projects… I get to see real energy use reductions…and it’s great to see things grow and change at the Urban Farm. Plus, I’ve learned a lot of useful practices that I can incorporate in my own home garden and energy savings efforts.

HON: What would your advice be to new volunteers to help make their experience more enjoyable?

DM: Try a lot of different projects and keep coming back to the ones you enjoy most. You will start seeing familiar faces and seeing how projects grow and expand, all of which makes for a really satisfying and volunteering experience.

Daniel McDonald painting at Cleveland Community Center during MLK Days of Service 2015.
Daniel McDonald painting at Cleveland Community Center during MLK Days of Service 2015.

HON: What is the best part about volunteering?

DM: There are a lot of great aspects to volunteering, like meeting great people and learning new skills. But the best part is seeing a project well done. Last weekend, along with a handful of volunteers, I helped fix up bikes for kids from the [ReCYCLE for Kids] bike drive. We fixed about 15 in a couple of hours, and it was fantastic to see all these awesome tuned-up bikes in a row, all ready for children to get riding.

HON: What do you struggle with? 

DM: The hardest part for me, as I assume for most people, is finding the time and energy in a busy calendar to squeeze some volunteering in. But I find with the huge variety of opportunities on the HON site, I can always find something that fits my schedule, and the enjoyment gives me the energy to keep coming back.

HON: Anything else you would like to share about your experiences as a Hands On Nashville volunteer?

DM: I know there is some trepidation around the rapid growth of Nashville and losing its great community character. I would say that because of Hands On Nashville’s community-building effects, both through their own services and helping other organizations provide services and, perhaps most importantly, through developing a network of civic enthusiasm, I think volunteering through HON is one of the best ways to engage positively with the growth of city and keep the civic character of the town thriving.

Interested in joining Hands On Nashville for an upcoming volunteer project? Visit hon.org to sign up today.

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