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Resolution Tree

One principal describes how volunteers helped lay the foundation for the school’s path forward.

“This project with Hands On Nashville actually set the foundation for the changes we wanted to see – not only with the vision to have visual statements throughout the building, but it set the path forward for the Napier way.”

— Dr. Lawless

Walk into the cafeteria at Napier Elementary and you will find a 10-foot tree constructed by a group of volunteers.

But this is no ordinary tree – according to Napier Elementary Principal Dr. Watechia Lawless, it is the focal point for her school’s positive path forward.

“The resolution tree is the center of our restorative justice program, “Dr. Lawless said. “It has transformed the culture of our school.”

“The resolution tree is a way for us to resolve conflict with students that would have usually resulted in suspension,” she continued. “It provides a place for students to articulate feelings, and say ok, ‘There‘s another way to do this than fighting.”

The tree was constructed in an afternoon by a team of volunteers from Competitive Carriers Association visiting Nashville for a conference in the April 2016.

According to Dr. Lawless, the tree represent a shift away from a punitive system, in which students are suspended or taken out of the classroom for negative behavior, to one focused on peer-to-peer conflict resolution.

“If students don’t feel loved and safe, they won’t learn. And if we don’t train them how to resolve conflict they will go back to what they know. We have to train them on the appropriate ways to deal with conflict… Hopefully these skills will prepare them for life, and not just for a test or to do well here: we want them to do well when they leave here.”

Beyond constructing the tree, the group revitalized the playground, enhanced the landscape with flowers and mulch, painted murals with the schools vision statements, assembled classroom care kits, and created learning tools for students.

“This project with Hands On Nashville actually set the foundation for the changes we wanted to see – not only with the vision to have visual statements throughout the building, but it set the path forward for the Napier way,” Dr. Lawless continued. “We’ve worked hard to transform the way people feel when you come here and that made a huge difference.”

“It was a breath of fresh air to know people were supportive of us and our goals,” she said.

Since the project, the centerpiece has since inspired resolution trees to be placed in nearly every single classroom, as well as one outside for our students and community members to use.

Painting Community

In the summer of 2016, Hands On Nashville partnered with Nashville Public Library, a local artist and Dollar General to paint a bright picture for our community.

Library directors at six branches worked closely with Nashville artist Kim Radford to develop their own customized, color-by-number design that reflects the spirit and history of their branch. Hands On Nashville organized and engaged Dollar General volunteers to complete the vision.

The artwork is now displayed at the Donelson, Edgehill, Edmondson Pike, Hadley Park, Inglewood, and Old Hickory Branches of the Nashville Public Library.

As NPL Director Kent Oliver said, the project is “rewarding because it combines volunteerism and art in a way that will benefit thousands of patrons and guests who visit Nashville Public Library in future months and years.”

JJ

JJ Rosen, Hands On Nashville’s first ever intern, reflects on being a part of something from the beginning.

The projects at that time would fill up. It was like getting a table at a restaurant now in Nashville.

— JJ Rosen

CHIEF EXECUTIVE INTERN:

“When I was in college at Vanderbilt, part of our requirement was a full semester internship. Hands On Nashville was just forming with Hal Cato and the original members. I heard about the opportunity, and at the time there was no office. For my interview, we met in the clubhouse at Hal’s apartment complex. I interviewed in my jacket and tie to be there intern – I was 21 years old.

Hands On Nashville was a brand new organization, and Hal had just come up with the idea after seeing a story about something similar starting in Atlanta. It was a chance to be part of something from the ground up, and to help build it from the beginning.

Getting the Word Out:

I was the only intern, and at that time there were no other employees. After a few weeks, Hal came up with this office, which was a little more like a closet, over on 21st avenue that someone very generously donated. I moved in there by myself and it became the original Hands On Nashville office.

This was well before the web, so we created a paper newsletter along with a calendar [of volunteer projects] we mailed out.

Meeting Community Needs:

We would go talk to agencies and nonprofits and ask them what needs they had. Then we would create a calendar with the list of opportunities volunteers could sign up for.  

Each project had a project coordinator – since this was before email, it was all by phone.

So we would write out ‘Meals On Wheels’; sign up and call ‘so and so’ — we need 5 volunteers. Or, we are painting a house on Saturday and we need 15 volunteers.

We would literally print labels and mail them back out and people would just sign up. The projects at that time would fill up. It was like getting a table at a restaurant now in Nashville.

Favorite Memories:

The first Hands On Nashville Day, we arrived downtown at the memorial and everyone was paranoid – ‘Was this going to work?’ We got there at 3 o’clock in the morning to set up… we probably over worked and over did it. But it worked.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE:

Hands On Nashville gave me the nudge I needed to get involved with something beyond my own needs.

I remember at one point, as part of the newsletters, I wrote as a joke, ‘JJ the Intern was promoted to Chief Executive Intern at Hands On Nashville…’

In a way, I felt like I was the Intern / Executive Director — it was awesome. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but the Board was very active and felt like I was starting something from scratch.  

It’s a really great group and it’s very hard to start something like that. Hal was the catalyst but there were a lot of folks who were very active in making it happen…To see that many years later Hands On Nashville still has the same energy and that it has grown…it’s just great.

Sound Matters

The story of how one community center’s needs were heard loud and clear.

“It made all of the difference in the world.”

— Channoty Robinson

Before volunteers installed acoustic paneling in the Kirkpatrick Community Center gym in 2016, the noise level often became so loud it limited the programming and activities in the space.

“There was just a lot noise bouncing off the wall when we were trying to get instructions to kids, “said Channoty Robinson, former director at Kirkpatrick Community Center. “Every Friday we partnered with the school next door for a P.E. skating class… and the roller skates on the floor, plus the music, it was just a lot of noise – you couldn’t make out the words or instructions.”

“We also used to host boy scouts and oratorical contests in the gym, and we couldn’t do that anymore,” Ms. Robinson continued. “Basketball in gym became hard with the parents cheering on their kids, you couldn’t follow the games…I had to turn away M.D.H.A when they wanted to do a community meeting about a local housing development. We had to turn a lot of people away and we had to cut back on the gym activities, which was just heartbreaking to me because the kids always loved going.”

“We had to turn a lot of people away and we had to cut back on the gym activities, which was just heartbreaking to me because the kids always they love going.”

— Channoty Robinson

To solve this need, Hands On Nashville partnered with Metro Parks and two groups of volunteers to install sound dampening panels.

Amongst the group was TiAndrea Watkins. As a Kirkpatrick Center coach and someone who grew up visiting the center, she knew all too well how this seemingly small issue made a big difference on programming offered.

“The feeling that I had to support the Center was awesome and this was a project that was much needed within the gym, said TiAndrea. “The Kirkpatrick Center is a home away from home for a lot of children within the community… it’s the children that come there that I care so much for. As a child I too would visit the [Kirkpatrick] community center during the summer. So to help in any way was my pleasure.”

Since the project, more programming and activities have returned to the center and a significant difference has been made for those in the community who now benefit from all it can offer.

“It was a blessing, I can tell you that. We were able to get back in the gym and do more.  Even with the gym half done – you could tell the difference,” Ms. Robinson said. “And when volunteers completed it, it made all of the difference in the world…”

“Volunteers are essential,” she continued. “Without them a lot of things could not get done.”

Rising Stars Academy

The story of how volunteers gave a pre-school an extra boost as it was reopening its doors after years.

To meet the rising demand of preschool needs in the area, Rising Stars Academy opened in summer 2016.

Leading up to the grand opening, the district had done a lot of work getting the classrooms ready for kids, but they didn’t the necessary time or resources to complete the finishing touches.

On October 12, Hands On Nashville and 35 volunteers spent the morning adding vibrancy to the outside of the school, which is surrounded by tall buildings, asphalt, and concrete due to its location downtown Cincinnati. During the service event, volunteers completed projects that brought nature, greenery, and beauty to the school.

The volunteers helped bring the magic alive by leaving footprints of service, compassion and love at Rising Stars Academy and for that we are forever grateful.

— Principal Finney

Volunteers beautified the front entrance of the school by planting hearty perennial flowers and spreading mulch. In addition, the group upgraded the school’s playground by painting an educational alphabet mural on the pavement, and constructing 10 planter boxes filled with pansies and mums. Volunteers also created large-scale customized murals to decorate the school’s hallway with nature scenes.

As Principal Finney recalled, “We became ‘family’! Everyone’s energy level was high and the momentum was everlasting. This was a project I will hold close to my heart. We will be forever grateful for the positive connections, time volunteered, unconditional love and the projects that we ABSOLUTELY ADORE!!! The volunteers helped bring the magic alive by leaving footprints of service, compassion, and love at Rising Stars Academy and for that we are forever grateful.”

As part of its Corporate Partner Program, Hands On Nashville completes service projects regionally to meet community needs.

Steve

Long-time Hands On Nashville volunteer Steve Martens explains why he helps his neighbor’s in their homes.

Steve Martens (second from right) with fellow volunteer Dante (left), Hands On Nashville's Natalie Hurd, and HES Homeowner Ms. Counts following an October 2016 Home Energy Savings Project. Dante Natalie, and Steve added insulation to her attic, switched out all of her lightbulbs and added energy efficient sink aerators/shower heads.
Steve Martens (second from right) with fellow volunteer Dante (left), Hands On Nashville’s Natalie Hurd, and HES Homeowner Ms. Counts following an October 2016 Home Energy Savings Project. Dante Natalie, and Steve added insulation to her attic, switched out all of her lightbulbs and added energy efficient sink aerators/shower heads.

The opportunity to improve the comfort and safety level for people who are unable to help themselves is very rewarding. I have had the pleasure to meet so many wonderful volunteers and homeowners, many have amazing and heartwarming stories.

— Steve Martens

Through the Home Energy Savings Program, Steve Martens has donated more than 100 hours of time, sweat and energy to bring comfort and cost-savings to homes of nearly 30 Nashville homeowners. Through these projects, Steve has helped replace lightbulbs, seal cracks in windows and doors, and get to know fellow residents who could use a helping hand to lower their bills and upgrade their homes.

In 2016, Steve shared this reflection of his experience to date.


In the fall of 2012 my wife and I moved from Iowa to Nashville to be closer to our grandchildren.  I have always enjoyed helping others by serving my community so I searched for ways to do that in Nashville. I discovered Hands On Nashville and all the volunteer opportunities they offer. I took advantage of several opportunities, one of which was their Home Energy Services program. 

One of the rewards of this program is hearing you are making a difference.

On about the 3rd home I had assisted with, we discovered that a contractor had taken a short cut when installing duct work into the main living area of the house. The duct work was not connected to the vent and the heated air was blowing into the interior wall and providing very little heat to the room. 

The owner had remarked that during the winter months she was always cold but could not understand why. We fixed this problem and performed other energy and safety improvements.

About 2 weeks later, this homeowner bumped into a Hands On Nashville employee at a local store. She gave her a big hug and thanked her profusely. She exclaimed that after all these years, she was finally warm during the winter months.

“This story and many other stories are why I love Hands On Nashville and specifically this program,” Steve said. “The opportunity to improve the comfort and safety level for people who are unable to help themselves is very rewarding. I have had the pleasure to meet so many wonderful volunteers and homeowners, many have amazing and heartwarming stories.  Hands On Nashville provides many great opportunities to make a difference and I encourage people to find their passion.”

A Way of Life

Day of  Volunteering  Becomes a Way of Life

  – LaQuita (center) with her North Nashville Flood Relief Team. 
  – LaQuita (center) with her North Nashville Flood Relief Team. 

The reward is when you see the smiles on the faces of the people you’ve helped. They’re really grateful that someone is still there when they don’t know where to turn. They have confidence in the work that we do, and that means everything.

— LaQuita Summey

A version of this story was originally published in 2011 in the book “Take My Hand: How Nashville United in the Wake of the 2010 Flood

When the floods hit, LaQuita Summey knew she couldn’t just sit at home and watch the news on television. She had to get out and do something.

She made her way to the East Nashville Volunteer Reception Center and was impressed with what she saw – not only were volunteers providing food and water to flood victims, they had already moved beyond those basic functions and were collecting clothes, organizing home assessments and cataloging residents’ needs.

LaQuita was just a face in the crowd that first afternoon – helping with whatever the organizers needed. It was a long day, she was growing tired, ready to go back home. Then she received a call from a friend in North Nashville. “LaQuita, you’ve got to get over here,” her friend said. “It’s sheer chaos.” Then another call; the occupants of a rental property in North Nashville that LaQuita owned and managed with her husband were on the line, and they were in a panic – the water was rising fast.

So the stay-at-home mom and graduate student with four courses remaining before she earned her degree in public administration decided not to go home that afternoon; instead, she drove over to North Nashville and volunteered some more. To anyone who would listen, her message was the same: Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. Today, I’m all yours.

What began as a day of volunteering turned into a life’s mission.

Long after the flood waters had receded, after the dignitaries had returned to Washington, D.C., after the media had turned to new stories and even after many Nashvillians had returned to their “normal” lives, LaQuita Summey was volunteering more than 100 hours per week to help finish the work that she and thousands of volunteers started on that day in May 2010.

After arriving at the North Nashville corner of West Hamilton and Tucker Road, LaQuita was prepared to be just one of many volunteers, as she had in East Nashville. But it soon became apparent that a leader was needed, and LaQuita was approached: Would she coordinate Hands On Nashville’s Volunteer Reception Center there?

“I prayed about it, spoke to my husband about it, and he said, ‘If you really want to do this, do it.’ So she said ‘yes,’ and soon was organizing an effort that would come to include more than 4,100 volunteers, most of whom were pointed to the North Nashville Flood Relief site by Hands On Nashville.

These volunteers were largely assigned to assess more than 200 flood damaged homes and take on the laborious process of gutting them out: knocking down and ripping out drywall, pulling out damaged insulation, removing furniture, clearing out debris, mitigating mold, scrubbing floors and windows, and salvaging personal belongings.

 

At times, it can be challenging as a wife and a mother and a grandmother –there are definitely moments when it seems overwhelming,” she said. “But so many people lost so much, and some people lost everything. One woman told me, ‘I had 45 years of memories that I lost in 45 seconds.’

As days turned to weeks and then to months, LaQuita was impressed with the outpouring of support from volunteers, not only those from Nashville, but folks from as far away as Michigan and Pennsylvania who were driving down to Nashville to help out, and college students who were spending their spring breaks working on drywall in North Nashville rather than their tans in sunny Florida.

The 100-hour weeks were challenging for LaQuita and her family; she won’t deny that. Rather than spending time with her daughter at home, she often found them bonding at The Home Depot when they were out purchasing carpeting or linoleum for a damaged home. But the rewards were richer than she ever imagined.

“At times, it can be challenging as a wife and a mother and a grandmother –there are definitely moments when it seems overwhelming,” she said at the time. “But so many people lost so much, and some people lost everything. One woman told me, ‘I had 45 years of memories that I lost in 45 seconds.’ It’s so hard for people to recover from something like that. So the reward is when you see the smiles on the faces of the people you’ve helped. They’re really grateful that someone is still there when they don’t know where to turn. They have confidence in the work that we do, and that means everything.”

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About Take My Hand: How Nashville United In The Wake Of The 2010 Flood:

In the first days of May 2010, Nashville, Tenn. was devastated by a 1,000-year flood. All Middle Tennesseans were affected, either personally or through friends’ and family members’ hardships. Yet out of this tragedy came triumph in the form of a historic volunteer response. “Take My Hand” celebrates the thousands of volunteers who refused to let the flood destroy Nashville. It is about the volunteers who worked night and day to help total strangers, and about Hands On Nashville, the organization that led the volunteer effort