Category Archives: AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps Member Spotlights: Rachel Bradd and Drew Himsworth

It’s been an honor during this year’s AmeriCorps Week to share stories of some of the incredible HON AmeriCorps members serving in nonprofits across Nashville.

Today we feature two members of the Hands On Nashville squad. They have been incredible teammates and all-around natural HONies.

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Rachel Bradd

Volunteer Project Coordinator

What’s something you’ve done during your service term, or something you’re planning, that has been particularly rewarding? 

One thing that was particularly rewarding was planning an event with a non-profit/corporation that HON has never worked with for my AmeriCorps MLK Day of Service project. Through this project with the help of Drew (HON’s Community Partner Program Coordinator AmeriCorps member) we were able to plan, organize, and assist volunteers, in partnership with Metro Social Services, with bundling more than 600 care packages to distribute to people experiencing homelessness.

What drew you to serve with AmeriCorps? 

I wanted to gain experience in the business environment while simultaneously pursuing my MBA. This opportunity also allowed for me to serve my community. Service to others has always been a big part of my life.

What’s the plan once you’ve completed your term? 

My plan is to pursue a career in government contracting with a government agency.

How do you spend your time when you’re not serving or volunteering? 

As a full-time grad student, I am typically studying or writing papers when I’m not serving or volunteering. I also do check out the occasional coffee shop for an extra boost of energy when I have a bit of free time on the weekends.

 

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Drew Himsworth

Community Partner Program Coordinator

What’s something you’ve done during your service term, or something you’re planning, that has been particularly rewarding? 

Building and designing an MLK donation drive to help those experiencing homelessness. We had a great response from the community when asking for items. Then the volunteers who showed up were hard working and amazing.

What drew you to serve with AmeriCorps? 

The opportunity to serve at Hands On Nashville and interact with so many amazing non-profits in the Greater Nashville area.

What’s the plan once you’ve completed your term? 

Continue to work in nonprofits and try to help others who need help.

How do you spend your time when you’re not serving or volunteering? 

Playing ultimate Frisbee, volunteering, dog-sitting, playing video games, making puzzles.

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AmeriCorps Member Spotlights: Shelby Timmons and Victoria Schnaufer

Happy AmeriCorps Week! All week here on the Show of Hands blog, we’ll be highlighting members of the HON AmeriCorps program, who are completing yearlong terms of service at nonprofit agencies across Nashville.

Today we feature two members serving with Plant The Seed, whose mission is to shape community and school gardens into outdoor classrooms to educate and empower under-resourced youth.

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Shelby Timmons

Garden Learning Coordinator 

What’s something you’ve done during your service term, or something you’re planning, that has been particularly rewarding?  

The most rewarding part of my service has been spending time with children and watching them learn and grow while in Plant the Seed programs. They love exploring the garden and have the most amazing observations and insight!

What drew you to serve with AmeriCorps? 

I found myself wanting to explore the world of nonprofits and not sure where to start. I also wanted to take my first steps toward a meaningful career.

What’s the plan once you’ve completed your term? 

I want to continue to work in education, as that is the part of my service I feel the most connected to.

How do you spend your time when you’re not serving or volunteering?  

I enjoy making art and spending time outdoors!

 

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Victoria Schnaufer

Garden Learning Coordinator 

What’s something you’ve done during your service term, or something you’re planning, that has been particularly rewarding?  

Every time I see a student come into the garden and connect recall a past lesson, or connect what we are learning in Plant the Seed to what they are learning in class, my eyes light up. This recall tells me that what we are doing in the garden is doing something — it matters.

What drew you to serve with AmeriCorps? 

I wanted to submerge myself into my community here in Nashville.

What’s the plan once you’ve completed your term? 

My hope is to stay connected to the Nashville community through education.

How do you spend your time when you’re not serving or volunteering?  

Working on my house! I just recently bought a house in Nashville and I am learning that a homeowner’s work is never complete.

AmeriCorps Member Spotlight: Will Southard

Here on the Show of Hands blog, we’re celebrating AmeriCorps Week by highlighting members of the HON AmeriCorps program, who are completing yearlong terms of service at nonprofit agencies across Nashville.

Today we feature a member serving with the Richland Creek Watershed Alliance,  a watershed-based, community-supported stream conservation group, focused on environmental sustainability of the Richland Creek watershed and the long-term restoration and preservation of its ecosystem.

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Will Southard

Education and Outreach Coordinator 

What’s something you’ve done during your service term, or something you’re planning, that has been particularly rewarding? 

We have an ongoing project with the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt in which we’re performing a tree catalog on one of our creek-side restoration sites. It’s been really amazing to work with these high school students, and I’m excited to see what they come up with for their final project.  

What drew you to serve with AmeriCorps? 

I’d heard of AmeriCorps before, but it wasn’t until my final year of school that I talked to a friend who had spent a year with AmeriCorps teaching in inner city schools in New York. The structure of her program – one year, focused on community service and capacity building – really appealed to me, so I started looking for similar positions with an environmental focus. 

What’s the plan once you’ve completed your term? 

For right after I’ve completed my term, I’m planning on doing some backpacking with some buddies from college. Long-term, I’d like to attend graduate school and get a master’s in Urban and Environmental Planning. 

How do you spend your time when you’re not serving or volunteering? 

When I’m not serving, you can usually find me reading (I prefer sci-fi and fantasy), hiking, playing board games with my roommates, or seeing live music. 

 

AmeriCorps Member Spotlights: Chandler Kucera, Georgia Caplen, and Ross Miller

It’s day two of AmeriCorps Week! To celebrate, we’re highlighting members of the HON AmeriCorps program, who are completing yearlong terms of service at nonprofit agencies across Nashville.

Today we feature three members serving with Cumberland River Compact, whose mission is to enhance the health and enjoyment of the Cumberland River and its tributaries through education, collaboration, and action.

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Chandler Kucera

Urban Tree Project Coordinator

What’s something you’ve done during your service term, or something you’re planning, that has been particularly rewarding?

Being able to plant numerous trees across Davidson County has been extremely rewarding. Actually being able to see your accomplishments and the progress that each tree is making is a great feeling. Also knowing that this may inspire others to help change their communities is very rewarding as well.

What drew you to serve with AmeriCorps?

I was drawn to AmeriCorps because it is a great opportunity to be a catalyst for change in your community. It is more focused on helping others rather than serving yourself, and that has been a nice change of pace from my previous experience.

What’s the plan once you’ve completed your term?

My plan is to look for a job that has a similar goal to the AmeriCorps program. I want to continue to help make change in my community and the environment, and will eventually go on to graduate school so I can learn more about my specific field and have an even larger impact.

How do you spend your time when you’re not serving or volunteering?

When not serving I love to be outside: Biking, hiking, kayaking, and swimming are some of my favorite activities. I love music, both playing and listening, as well as reading. I also enjoy spending time with family and friends as much as possible.

 

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Georgia Caplen

Rivive! Nashville Project Coordinator

What’s something you’ve done during your service term, or something you’re planning, that has been particularly rewarding? 

I recently collaborated with Patagonia Nashville and local artist Bryce McCloud for their new store’s grand opening weekend. I helped Bryce collect inspiration and materials for an art canvas focused on local environmental awareness that will be displayed in the store’s front entrance window for the next few months. It was rewarding and intriguing for me to plan a project with a company like Patagonia. I have always been inspired by their sustainability- and environmental-awareness initiatives. This opportunity was particularly rewarding because this specific art project helped inspire local customers to think about Nashville’s waterways with a new perspective.

What drew you to serve with AmeriCorps? 

I was drawn to serve with AmeriCorps after seeing the direct impact service projects can have within a community. I spent my senior spring break with the nonprofit North Carolina Coastal Federation and, after engaging with the staff and the current AmeriCorps stationed there, I felt that serving as an AmeriCorps was a promising and positive next step after graduation.

What’s the plan once you’ve completed your term? 

After my service term, my plan is to find an internship related to coastal conservation or environmental planning to gain experience within the environmental field and then attend graduate school in the following years.

How do you spend your time when you’re not serving or volunteering? 

When I am not serving with my nonprofit, you can find me exploring a new hiking destination in Tennessee and the surrounding areas! In the new year, I began the 52 Hike Challenge, where every week I set out to find a new hiking adventure and then share my experiences on my personal hiking blog.

 

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Ross Miller

Urban Streams Coordinator

What’s something you’ve done during your service term, or something you’re planning, that has been particularly rewarding? 

We have a series of volunteer cleanups planned around the state throughout April and the first two Saturdays of May. Preparing for what surely will be one of the most difficult and successful projects the Compact has undertaken is an incredible learning experience for me.

What drew you to serve with AmeriCorps? 

My passion for the outdoors led me to serve with the Compact, which is driven to enhance the lives of millions of Tennessee residents and to keep this area beautiful.

What’s the plan once you’ve completed your term? 

To take the next step for a career in environmentalism, preferably following a path regarding climate action.

How do you spend your time when you’re not serving or volunteering? 

Getting to know and explore Nashville and the surrounding area.

 

 

 

AmeriCorps Member Spotlights: Anna Patton and Valentin Le Besnerais

Happy AmeriCorps Week! All week here on the Show of Hands blog, we’ll be highlighting members of the HON AmeriCorps program, who are completing yearlong terms of service at nonprofit agencies across Nashville.

Today we feature two members serving with the Tennessee Environmental Council,  whose mission is to educate and advocate for the conservation and improvement of Tennessee’s environment, communities, and public health.

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Anna Patton

Composting and Recycling Education Coordinator 

What’s something you’ve done during your service term, or something you’re planning, that has been particularly rewarding? 

I have been a part of a community project that involved dealing with recycling and Nashville residents directly. It was rewarding because we were able to communicate the issue of contamination in the recycling stream and educate residents as well as volunteers of proper recycling habits.

I have also been able to be a part of an effort led by Urban Green Lab that targets tackling food waste in schools. I participated in a food waste audit in H.G. Hill Middle School, which was very eye-opening about the waste that is generated throughout four lunch periods. It has been inspiring to be a part of the conversation in how we can cut down on school food waste!

What drew you to serve with AmeriCorps? 

I have always pursued service as a part of my lifestyle, and have attempted to positively affect the community that I live in. AmeriCorps, being a national service program, was appealing to me due to its reliance on service as well an opportunity for me to challenge myself and grow through this service-learning program.

What’s the plan once you’ve completed your term? 

I plan to continue learning different skills in life that will educate me on how to further help people in all sectors of life. I am particularly interested in targeting environmental injustices by serving poverty-stricken communities. I plan to take what I have learned from TEC and practice strides toward a zero-landfill lifestyle.

How do you spend your time when you’re not serving or volunteering? 

I enjoy gardening as well as learning new trades such as playing the piano and ukulele. I also enjoy crafts involving upcycling or repurposing “old” or outdated materials through innovative methods such as naturally dyeing fabric to create homemade pants.

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Valentin Le Besnerais

Compost and Recycling Education Coordinator

What’s something you’ve done during your service term, or something you’re planning, that has been particularly rewarding?

Making progress on Tennessee residents’ recycling and compost habits to ensure that as much waste is diverted from the landfill as possible!

What drew you to serve with AmeriCorps?

AmeriCorps gave me an opportunity to serve in a field that I am interested in, enabling me to advance my career and learn more about nonprofit operations.

What’s the plan once you’ve completed your term?

I plan on continuing on the path of environmentally friendly work to better the communities around me as I advance my career.

How do you spend your time when you’re not serving or volunteering?

I like to spend time outdoors hiking, playing sports, and riding my bike. I also enjoy listening to and playing music and attending concerts around town.

 

AmeriCorps Q&A: Stephen Decker, Refugee Cultural Orientation Specialist

Working with Hands On Nashville and Volunteer Tennessee, Catholic Charities of Tennessee welcomed two AmeriCorps members for the 2016-2017 term. As his term came to a close, we asked Steven Decker, refugee cultural orientation specialist, to share thoughts about what he’ll take away from a year of service.

Is there a community project or moment in the past year that particularly resonated with you? Why?

I always was trying to improve my cultural orientation class by working with community organizations and PSOs that could help me develop new materials for the class. My outreach to the Metro Nashville Police Department resulted in much more than I expected; not only did we get some great information and materials to pass on to clients, but with MNPD’s help, I was able to organize a field trip for clients. They met police officers in Nashville and learned more about the role of the police in American society. This was the kind of community building I came to AmeriCorps in order to do, and I was glad to see my outreach efforts bear fruit.

What has been the most challenging part of your term so far?

The political dimensions surrounding refugee resettlement in the U.S. right now make working in an agency like Catholic Charities awfully interesting, to say the least. With funding cuts and other related changes, we are down to a skeleton crew compared to the staff we had, but are still expected to deliver the same level of service to our clients within the same kind of timelines as before. Lucky for us, we have a great staff that has banded together to weather the storm. It’s a great team that continues – and will continue in the future, I’m sure – to perform ordinary, everyday miracles!

What about the most rewarding? 

There are two answers I could provide for this question. The first thing I’d mention is the chance to work with some remarkable people who have overcome terrible hardships, and yet could teach many of us a thing or two about compassion and respecting your fellow man. The second is helping others in the Nashville community and surrounding area better understanding the facts surrounding the refugee experience before and after resettlement. I have found the best way to fight prejudice borne of ignorance is to provide people with the means to break their own ignorance.

What do you like most about working with Catholic Charities?

This is one of the best staffs I have ever been a part of; it’s been a true privilege to work with and be counted among this group, and I have been blessed with plenty of “take-aways” or lessons I can apply to my future work from this experience.

What’s something you didn’t expect about living in Nashville?

T-R-A-F-F-I-C. You can say want you want about Nashville residents, but they sure do know how to clog up a road!

Learn more about Catholic Charities of Tennessee.

AmeriCorps Q&A: Breanna Rack, Corporate Partner Program AmeriCorps Member

By Natalie Hurd

Last August, Hands On Nashville welcomed a new class of AmeriCorps members to serve on our environmental, youth and education, and corporate teams. With the team nearing the end of the service year, they’re sharing their experiences, lessons learned and favorite memories.

As an AmeriCorps member, Breanna Rack helped direct corporate projects and create partnerships between businesses and community organizations. Now, as her AmeriCorps term comes to an end, she’s embracing a new role – as manager of HON’s corporate partner program.

Is there a community project in the past six months that particularly resonated with you? Why?

Our project with Jackson National Life Insurance at Maplewood High School built capacity for two student-led community initiatives: Project LIT Community and the Garden Club. Project LIT Community installs mini-libraries in barbershops, restaurants and community centers, focusing on neighborhoods that don’t have easy access to a public library. Volunteers built 27 libraries for Project LIT Community and sorted more than 10,000 donated books. Volunteers also created a pumpkin patch for the school garden for students to seed and have pumpkins ready to sell this fall.

What about the most rewarding?

Seeing tangible outcomes at the end of every volunteer project. I’ve always enjoyed working with people, and I love working with enthusiastic volunteers who want to make a difference and see that change at the end of the day.

This spring, at a school in south Nashville, we created a rain garden outside a classroom that constantly gets flooded. Knowing that the work we do makes a tangible difference and improves the lives and work of people in the organizations we serve makes each day rewarding.

Can you share some advice for someone who is considering AmeriCorps or nonprofit work?

Nonprofits demand a really diverse skill set, which can be challenging at first but rewarding in the long run. AmeriCorps is a great way to learn a lot of skills in a short amount of time, and hone in on what strengths you bring to an organization. AmeriCorps members also get to see the direct impact of our work on a daily basis.

What is your favorite place to spend a Sunday afternoon in Nashville?

I’m a big brunch-er, so any brunch spot or coffee shop is my favorite place to be on a Sunday, followed by a walk in one of our local parks!

What’s something you didn’t expect about living in Nashville?

I was pleasantly surprised to see the cultural diversity. I moved here from Orlando, which is a very diverse city, and I was nervous about how I would find that community here as well. I enjoy getting to explore the neighborhoods and see what they have to offer because they are all so different and have such unique personalities.

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AmeriCorps Q&A: Natalie Hurd, Environmental AmeriCorps Member

Last August, Hands On Nashville welcomed a new class of AmeriCorps members to serve on our environmental, youth and education, and corporate teams. With the team now halfway through the service year, they’re sharing their experiences, lessons learned and favorite memories.

Natalie Hurd has been working with Hands On Nashville’s Home Energy Savings and Environmental Restoration programs. Natalie leads volunteers in installing energy-efficient retrofits in low-income homes and oversees Volunteer Leaders for environmental restoration projects.

Is there a community project in the past six months that particularly resonated with you? Why?

I’ve had the opportunity to work with many wonderful volunteers and homeowners through HON’s Home Energy Savings (HES) program. One of my favorite projects was with a high school group volunteering in a young family’s home. The children in the home were eager to meet everyone, and the volunteers had a great time including them, so it made for a fun day. Getting the work done is always a goal, but I think that one-on-one interaction is what makes projects special.

Have any AmeriCorps moments challenged the way you thought about a particular issue, or affected how you will approach similar situations in the future?

I came into HES and environmental restoration with a background in environmental policy, so I viewed both programs with that frame of mind. I realized early on that each volunteer has unique motivations for lending a hand, and those reasons are often different than mine. I’ve learned to broaden my project orientations to speak to a varied audience, and that has helped me view the issues my programs address in a multifaceted way.

Can you share some advice for someone who is considering AmeriCorps or nonprofit work?

In any role, I think it’s important to be flexible. The best nonprofits respond to changing community needs, so your role may evolve over time. No matter how you day-to-day duties change during your term, it’s helpful to maintain a big-picture view of what you would like to get out of your AmeriCorps experience, and how your skills can benefit your organization.

What is your favorite place to spend a Sunday afternoon in Nashville?

I love spending the afternoon exploring the many hiking trails nearby, especially in Percy Warner Park or Radnor Lake. On rainy days, I like trying out new coffee shops or breakfast spots.

What do you like most about working in the Hands On Nashville office?

Everyone in the office is friendly and supportive, and our team dynamic reflects that. I also think it’s fun to see everyone working on different projects and then coming together to share what we’re doing – it is a cool reminder of all the awesome work Hands On Nashville and our nonprofit partners are doing in the community.

Read more about AmeriCorps experiences at Hands On Nashville.

AmeriCorps Q&A: Anna Byrne, Youth & Education AmeriCorps Member

By Natalie Hurd, Environmental AmeriCorps Member

Last August, Hands On Nashville welcomed a new class of AmeriCorps members to serve on our environmental, youth and education, and corporate teams. With the members nearing the end of the service year, they’re sharing their experiences, lessons learned and favorite memories.

Throughout her term, Anna Byrne has been working with Nashville neighborhood stakeholders to identify volunteer engagement opportunities supporting youth and education. Anna assesses neighborhood needs to help find volunteer-focused solutions.

What has been the most rewarding part of your AmeriCorps term so far?

All of the connections I have made in the nonprofit community, and the confidence I have found in my career path and myself. I start graduate school soon to pursue a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) degree, and because of my experience with HON, I feel confident on that path.

How does your term so far compare to your expectations when first joining?

I have been pleasantly surprised with how much I have learned and been able to do outside of my job description. I didn’t expect to get to do so many different types of work and I have really enjoyed that part of the job.

Can you share some advice for someone who is considering AmeriCorps or nonprofit work?

Service is a great way to learn about the nonprofit world, and AmeriCorps provides one avenue of getting that experience. AmeriCorps is a commitment to service, and service means that you are making a sacrifice—in my experience, that sacrifice has been well worth it. If you decide that you want to serve through AmeriCorps, then you will likely need to have support financially, whether that means working multiple jobs or having family to back you up.

What is your favorite place to spend a Sunday afternoon in Nashville?

Volunteer Trail with my dog, Atlas.

What do you like most about working at Hands On Nashville?

The work environment at HON has been one of my favorite parts of my year of service. Everyone here is so authentic and supportive. I don’t think I have ever felt so comfortable in a workplace.

Interested in serving with AmeriCorps? Hands On Nashville is hiring through July 24.