Hope for the Holidays

By Sophia Bobrowsky, AmeriCorps Volunteer Project Leader with Hands On Nashville 

Once recovery began following the March 2021 flooding, Hands On Nashville and our disaster partners set a goal — rebuilding 30 homes within a year of the flood. On Nov. 5, we celebrated another milestone toward that goal by completing our latest home rebuild, just in time for the holidays!  

It wouldn’t have been possible without The Inspiritus team, HON volunteers, the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (CFMT), and service members from the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) who came together to aid the hundreds of families affected by the flooding. My name is Sophia Bobrowsky, the AmeriCorps Volunteer Project Leader with Hands On Nashville. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with the recovery teams on this home, and was able to visit on the final day of construction.  

Here’s what I saw. 

Walking up to the Inspiritus construction site for the last time, I was greeted by Robert Zavala, the contractor who has overseen the home construction for the past three months. He’s contracted through Inspiritus, a nonprofit that offers disaster relief and long-term recovery solutions to people in need.  

An AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps member assists in renovating a flood-damaged home.

I stood in the kitchen of the newly remodeled home in awe as NCCC members  steadily cleaned around me. A dozen or so members were busy wiping dust from the trim, and putting the final screws in kitchen cabinets.  

Robert chuckled at my excitement, and was quick to credit all the volunteers for their hard work.  

“NCCC is absolutely wonderful, I love them to death,” Robert said. “They come with a big crew and get everything knocked out very fast. It’s nice to have a crew you can train, and that works together for a longer period of time.” 

Robert explained NCCC didn’t come with formal training, but like volunteers who sign up for Inspiritus projects, they’re excited to learn, and always give 100 percent. Together, volunteer teams rebuilt this home from the ground up — the walls were gutted, the flooring torn out, and the HVAC system had to be completely cleaned and repaired.  

Of the projects, the flooring took the longest, Robert said. From ripping up the flooring to repairing the subfloor and then laying new tile — it’s a tedious process that takes time to be done right.  

Robert is the only Inspiritus construction manager in Tennessee, and he assists in matching volunteers with projects that are safe , sources and purchases materials for home repairs, and trains the volunteers completing the work.  

A NCCC member paints the trim of a home damaged by the March 2021 flooding.

Following my talk with Robert, I continued to explore the house and see what my fellow AmeriCorps members were working on. I spoke with Marisa Switzman, a Team Lead with Americorps NCCC. 

NCCC is different than the traditional Americorps program I am currently participating in, as this cohort travels the country for 10 months, spending no more than a few weeks in each city they visit. NCCC members meet community needs in the areas of energy conservation, infrastructure improvement, natural and other disaster services, and urban and rural development. 

Marisa said she said she really enjoys the hands-on experience of NCCC, and learning so many different life and teambuilding skills. 

“It’s been super rewarding to give back to the community and to specific people like this homeowner,” Marisa said. “That’s why we joined NCCC because it’s all about that:, giving back. The most challenging part is making mistakes — but that’s part of the learning process, and Robert has shown us mistakes are really easy to fix.” 

Zach King, also an NCCC member, was serving alongside Marisa, and agreed about the construction skills. This is the first construction project he’s attempted during his term, and said so far each site has presented a different set of challenges.  

“In terms of the whole year — Mammoth Cave was the most physically demanding, but NOLA was emotionally demanding,” Zach said.  

A group of NCCC members post for a photo while working on site in Nashville.

His cohort spent the first month of their term rebuilding hiking trails at Mammoth Cave, Ky., and the following few weeks offering relief to survivors of Hurricane Ida in New Orleans. For the next few weeks Zach and his team will stay in Davidson County continuing to support disaster relief efforts in South Nashville.  

“So far my term has been super good — in NOLA everyone was super thankful, and the people were very vocal about that. In Mammoth [Cave] our work was lasting as the trails will be used by hikers for a while. However, here it’s massive for this homeowner to have a house to get into by Thanksgiving,” Zach said. “That’s incredible, and a really cool goal to have someone in their house by the holidays.” 

We are extremely grateful to VOAD and CFMT for providing the funding to HON and our partnering organizations to assist in flood-relief efforts. To read more about their impact, click here.

NCCC is a federally-funded program that Hands On Nashville applied for and was granted following the March flooding. For more information about NCCC, click here. To volunteer for a disaster relief project, click here 

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