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AmeriCorps Member Spotlight: Jasmine Lucas

Jasmine Lucas joined the HON AmeriCorps Program in late March. Read on to learn more about her!

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Jasmine Lucas

Community Outreach Coordinator at Hands On Nashville

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

Being out with the volunteers and recognizing them for what they are contributing to their community. It has been exhilarating to meet individual volunteers who walk completely different lives from one another meet up and commune over serving the community. I believe there is nothing more beautiful than that. I plan on recognizing our volunteers directly through social media in future Community Partner events. I’m excited to be the voice of HON and put forth the faces of our volunteers!

What drew you to serve with AmeriCorps?

What drew me to serve with AmeriCorps was that I saw it as a chance for me to be a part of something bigger than myself. That has been my driving force for a long while. I have made many personal, developmental decisions based on this standard, and it has yet to fail me. I have always grown to be a better person when I made a decision to be a part of something that is bigger than myself, and I am confident AmeriCorps is that next “bigger than myself” opportunity in this season of my life.

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

After AmeriCorps I am not quite sure what I will start doing. So far, I plan to serve another term with a nonprofit here in Nashville. After that, I may begin working with a local nonprofit in Nashville, or I may travel the world teaching English as a Second Language (I have a lot of international friends who want me to visit 🙂 )

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

In my free time I partake in a variety of hobbies including crocheting, writing/reading poetry, watching movies with my roommates, and going on excursions around Nashville with new friends. You will probably also find me staking out at local coffee shops as I read and write.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2019-2020 AmeriCorps cohort. Learn more and apply here.

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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.

 

HONDay 2018 brings together nearly 1,000 volunteers for school improvement projects

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Dr. Kimberly Fowler, principal at Hickman Elementary School, addresses the group of volunteers as Hands On Nashville Day 2018 kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 22.

Nearly 1,000 volunteers came together on Saturday, Sept. 22, for the 27th Annual Hands On Nashville Day, a citywide day of service supporting Metro Nashville Public Schools. At 15 schools, volunteers created inspirational murals, landscaped playgrounds and school gardens, painted hallways and gymnasiums, and more.

“The volunteers out here today are showing how much they support MNPS students and families,” said Dr. Kimberly Fowler, principal of Hickman Elementary School. “Their efforts are about more than a coat of paint or a wheelbarrow of mulch. They’re spending their time to show just how important our schools and our children are to the whole community.”

Continue reading HONDay 2018 brings together nearly 1,000 volunteers for school improvement projects

Resolve to Serve Stories: Nashville Clean Water Project

Walk around nearly any Nashville neighborhood, and you’ll see how the area earned its “It City” nickname. New construction and increased traffic are daily symptoms of a growing population. Unfortunately, increasing pollution levels in Middle Tennessee waterways are also a result.

Enter the Nashville Clean Water Project (NCWP). In 2017, the organization launched the Adopt-A-Storm-Drain Program, which includes an online database that maps the city’s thousands of storm drains. Individuals, local businesses, housing associations and any other Nashvillians can adopt location-specific storm drains. By committing to checking drains for debris, litter, construction site runoff and pollution, adopters help clean water flow into local lakes, rivers and streams while improving the region’s environmental health.

“The importance of the project inspired me,” said Jana DeLuna, a volunteer who adopted more than 30 storm drains in her Donelson neighborhood. “We all want clean water to use in our homes and offices – and every citizen can play a role in environmental preservation. It is super easy to take a walk with a trash bag and clean while I walk. The drains are in a short distance of my home, and I check them in the mornings on my day off.”

 

 

Mark Thein, executive director of NCWP, shared that one of the program’s top intentions is to help spread awareness about water quality and environmental health. “Our goal has been to reach new advocates,” said Thien. “99 percent of adopters were not previously engaged in Nashville’s clean water cause.”

For example, in two neighborhoods, housing associations (HOAs) stepped up to adopt 100 percent of local storm drains. Drain adoptions give HOAs and employers a quick way to engage in social responsibility without committing an unsustainable amount of time.

NCWP volunteers are advancing the way environmental fieldwork takes place. By adopting a storm drain near your home or place of work, spreading the word with friends and neighbors, or encouraging your neighborhood or housing association to get involved, it’s easy to help build a cleaner, greener future in Middle Tennessee.

The Nashville Clean Water Project provides residents and corporations across Middle Tennessee a platform to demonstrate environmental dedication and service commitments. To continue the conversation or set up a meeting with an HOA or community organization, reach out to the NCWP today

Resolve to Serve Stories: Nashville Adult Literacy Council

Every day, Hands On Nashville’s community partners and volunteer community build stronger communities through service. HON celebrates these partners through Resolve to Serve Stories. We’re inspired by their work, their missions and their dedication – and invite you to get involved.

Imagine not being able to read. Imagine not being able to speak or understand the English language. Imagine not being able to fill out a job application or communicate with your doctor. Imagine never having a chance for a better job or job promotion. Imagine not being able to help your children with their homework or not being able to attend a parent-teacher conference. Imagine having to rely on someone to pay your bills for you because you can’t read them. Imagine the feeling of your children asking for a bedtime story, and you are unable to read to them.

Imagine yourself changing someone’s life.

Last year, the Nashville Adult Literacy Council (NALC) worked with hundreds of volunteers to help nearly 1,700 adults learn reading, writing, conversational skills and information about U.S. citizenship. Most of the agency’s volunteers do not come from a professional teaching background. Through NALC’s training, individuals become one-on-one tutors who help adults in Nashville become successful, thriving parts of the community.

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Julie Kramer, ELL Specialist at NALC, manages the one-on-one tutoring program for adult immigrants. She draws from her own personal experience as an example of what volunteering for NALC means.

“I worked in the corporate travel industry for 30 years, but wanted to find a meaningful volunteer opportunity that would directly benefit someone,” says Julie. “I never thought of myself as a teacher and never thought I’d be teaching anybody anything, but I decided to get outside of my comfort zone to help someone in the Nashville community. I was pretty unsure of myself in the beginning.”

Julie’s first student was a biology teacher from Egypt, who was working in hotel housekeeping at the time. As the student gained proficiency with his English skills, he became more confident and landed a job in a biology lab. Though Julie met with her student in Antioch, Julie lived in Bellevue and worked near Nashville International Airport.

One in eight Nashville adults is functionally illiterate, and 12 percent of Nashville’s population was born outside of the United States. With more than 100 people on NALC’s waiting list, the need for one-on-one tutors is great, especially in the Antioch and south Nashville areas of the city.

Julie says, “I felt like this was the most rewarding volunteer experience I had ever had, so much so that I decided to change careers to work with adult immigrants who were learning English. I knew I had found my calling right away.” Now, she manages the program.

It wasn’t just Julie’s calling. The entire Nashville Adult Literacy Council staff began their work as volunteer tutors, many after careers in completely different fields.

Consider stepping outside of your neighborhood and meeting someone you would never come in contact with in your everyday life. NALC has trained accountants, IT professionals, college students, FBI investigators, doctors, project managers, waiters, scientists, homemakers, and healthcare workers to help adults learn to read and improve English skills.

Over and over, volunteers state they get more out of the experience than the learners. Participants enjoy the experience while making a huge difference in someone’s life.

The Nashville Adult Literacy Council is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to teaching reading to U.S.-born adults and English skills to adult immigrants. The agency’s vision is for all to learn and for all to help build a community of adults empowered through literacy. Browse all volunteer opportunities with NALC and visit the agency’s website for upcoming volunteer training dates.

HON Day 2017: Altria Volunteers and the Value of Showing Up

At 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 23, HON Day volunteers started arriving at Metro Nashville Public School site. For many, the day was just beginning. However, a handful of employee volunteers from Altria had started their “days” the previous night. The volunteers had worked from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Instead of heading home, the group reported to Cora Howe School to lend a hand.

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Preparing to expand the school garden.

Altria has been a dedicated HON Day sponsor since 2012, serving as presenting sponsor for the past two years. The company’s participation in HON Day 2017 is a testament to the power of private organizations connecting with their communities – and the value of showing up and making a difference. With Altria’s 2017 support, more than 1,000 volunteers had the resources needed to make a difference at 15 MNPS schools. On top of that, Altria volunteers always show up with positive attitudes, roll up their sleeves and turn project resources into results.

This year, the Altria volunteer team brought massive energy, laughter and hard work to Cora Howe, despite the long hours and hot Nashville sun. Led by community partners Cumberland River Compact and Nashville Tree Foundation, volunteers helped build a rain garden and plant trees on school grounds.

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One of seven new trees at Cora Howe School.

“HON Day builds camaraderie within our team, and it’s so great to be helping schools,” said Altria’s Jennifer Simpkins. 2017 marked Simpkins’ second HON Day, and she was one of the volunteers who reported for duty after working through the night.

James Harvey and Robert Klein, training leader and plant manager at Altria (respectively), also shared why they’ve supported HON Days past and present. “When it comes down to it, we’re blessed and fortunate,” said Harvey. “Whenever we can give back – that’s the right thing to do. As a business and as a person, it matters.”

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Starting work on the new rain garden.

To the entire Altria team: thank you for your commitment to HON Day as not only the presenting sponsor, but a team of community members ready to pitch in and work for a shared cause.

View photos from Hands On Nashville Day 2017.

1991

In 1991, 16 people came together with one vision. Their story continues today.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

— Margaret Mead

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In 1991, a group of sixteen Nashvillians came together with one dream — to expand Nashville’s base of community volunteers.

With heart and passion, the group was seeking a more innovative approach to volunteerism. They wanted to offer individuals a flexible schedule of diverse and meaningful volunteer opportunities.  

The group, volunteers in their own right, was led by Hal Cato. Hal at the time served as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels during his lunch break. He had such a rewarding experience that he started bringing friends along to deliver meals with him. Soon, these friends began developing volunteer opportunities with other nonprofits.

As this passion for service grew, Cato became aware of the work that a forward-thinking volunteer group in Atlanta was doing – this group would later form HandsOn Network. After visiting with the folks in Atlanta, Cato and his friends said, “Let’s do this in Nashville, too.” And the idea was born to create an organization that makes it easy for people to find meaningful volunteer opportunities in the Nashville area.

The organization began as a true grassroots effort. In the first year of operation, there were no paid staff or budget, and Cato provided office space in his home. The group set a goal to recruit 250 volunteers, and they created fliers listing volunteer opportunities and left them in people’s mailboxes.

The first project calendar was printed in June of 1991.  By December, the project calendar had expanded to include 10 projects. In 1992, the Board coordinated a city-wide day of volunteerism called Hands On Nashville Day, and on October 31, 1992 1,100 people joined together to “Lend Nashville A Hand”.

Based on other successful groups in New York, Washington D.C. and Atlanta, Hands On Nashville became the fourth “Hands On” agency in America.

Today, their legacy continues, with thousands of volunteers uniting in service each year.

When referring back to the beginnings of the organization, founders have often referenced a quote from Margaret Mead that still rings true for the organization today:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”