Meet the 2020 Strobel Awards finalists: Direct Service (Ages 21-49) category

This category of the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards recognizes individuals who have contributed significant volunteer time, energy, and/or resources to help an agency’s constituents.  

Adam Crookston 

Adam Crookston

Volunteers at Nashville Dolphins 

When a Nashville Dolphins swimmer gets into the pool to begin their lesson with Adam Crookston, they are transported to a fantasy world where skills like blowing bubbles underwater earn them invisible treasures and imaginary points.  

Crookston, a volunteer assistant to Nashville Dolphins’ instructors, creates imaginative swim lessons for participants based on their interests to ensure they feel comfortable, excited, and challenged. 

Nashville Dolphins is a nonprofit whose mission is to bring the physical and emotional benefits of swimming to people with special needs regardless of age, ability, or financial circumstances. Through free aquatic programming, participants develop physical fitness, build confidence, establish friendships, and experience the pride and joy of being part of a team.  

Crookston has set the bar high for swim lessons by creating a standard of engagement that inspires other volunteers and instructors. Swimmers can’t wait to swim with Crookston, and at times won’t start their lesson until after he has arrived.  

Aidan Pace 

Aidan Pace

Volunteers at Preston Taylor Ministries 

Every Thursday, the students of Preston Taylor Ministries’ after-school program are met by Aidan Pace, a weekly volunteer who is there to help them with their schoolwork and be a positive presence in their lives.  

Preston Taylor Ministries operates their after-school program at the McGruder Family Resource Center, and in addition to tutoring, provides students with a safe space to go when they are done with school for the day. Students use this time to prepare for school and get extra help and attention from mentors.  

Pace is a frequent Preston Taylor Ministries volunteer and, in addition to his work at their after-school program, meets with eighth-grade student Arkee every Thursday for breakfast and Bible study. During these meetings, Arkee can express himself and explore his faith. 

“Aidan has jumped in at McGruder, and even brought four friends with him his first day back!” says Emily Gitter, Youth Resource Director at Preston Taylor Ministries. “The kids he has interacted with before remember him by name, and he knows them well enough to greet them by name.”  

La Rhonda Potts 

La Rhonda Potts

Volunteers at CASA Nashville 

When La Rhonda Potts volunteers, she thinks less about what she can get out of the experience and more about how she can make a difference in a child’s life. Potts is a court-appointed special advocate for CASA Nashville, a program that supplies advocates for abused and neglected children caught in the court system. Advocates help children find safe and permanent homes.  

Potts has been a volunteer advocate with CASA Nashville since 2014, and during her time with the organization she has served on three cases. For each of these cases, Potts has gone above and beyond in her advocacy.  

Always concerned about how decisions affect the life of the child, Potts does everything in her power to make sure each decision made will lead to a positive outcome.  

“From the first moment I met La Rhonda, I knew she was committed,” says a foster parent who has worked with Potts. “She has been on top of making sure the case continues to progress. Not only is she knowledgeable about the system, but she has a passion for the children she’s supporting.”  

“Her presence in [the children’s] lives has been key. From attending multiple T-ball games to making them feel special at Christmas, she always wants them to feel cared for.”  

Catharine Hollifield 

Catharine Hollifield

Volunteers at Best Buddies 

For the Best Buddies program at Montgomery Bell Academy, the impact of Catharine Hollifield’s involvement has been astronomical. This is most clearly illustrated by the success of the Best Buddies annual Friendship Walk.  

Best Buddies is a nonprofit dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“Catharine and her chapter were hands-on with the walk preparation,” says Missy Naff, Director of Programs at Best Buddies. “They spent countless hours helping us execute one of the best walks that I have seen in my eight years with Best Buddies. Because of their efforts we were able to host over 2,000 of our participants for a day filled with pure joy.” 

Hollifield leads students at Montgomery Bell Academy in order to provide social opportunities to the participants of the Best Buddies program. Through her work, Hollifield has helped Montgomery Bell Academy implement new initiatives to further inclusion and awareness.  

Under her guidance, Montgomery Bell Academy has been twice selected as Chapter of the Year by Best Buddies International. 

Join Hands On Nashville for the 2020 Strobel Volunteer Awards on Sept. 14, 15, and 16.

Meet the 2020 Strobel Awards finalists: Direct Service (Ages 5-20)

This category of the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards recognizes individuals who have contributed significant volunteer time, energy, and/or resources to help an agency’s constituents. 

Emily Phan 

Volunteers at The Little Pantry That Could 

As guests arrive at The Little Pantry That Could, volunteers like Emily Phan are there to walk with them through the aisles and help them choose the foods they need for the week. Phan has been volunteering with The Little Pantry since she was 12 years old. 

The Little Pantry provides produce and shelf-stable items free of charge on a weekly basis to anyone in need, no questions asked. Their volunteers do a variety of tasks, from sorting donations and stocking the shelves to working one-on-one with guests.  

Since starting high school, Phan has served more than 200 hours and is a favorite among the guests of The Little Pantry, who often request that she be the one to shop with them.  

Working one-on-one with guests is personal and at times overwhelming as volunteers learn about guests’ lives and struggles with food security. However, Phan is always able to lend an ear and give her heart to each guest.  

“Talking with the people who come to the pantry for help extends my worldview and teaches me to be grateful for the things I have,” Phan says.  

Through her volunteering, Phan has become an incredible spokesperson for The Little Pantry, and is always trying to figure what else she can do for the community members it serves.  

Elizabeth Graham Pistole 

Volunteers at The Dancing Divas and Dudes 

At 13 years old, Elizabeth Pistole had many opportunities to learn teamwork, life skills, and achieve personal goals as a competitive dancer. However, her sister Natalie, who was born with Down Syndrome, was not given the same opportunities as there weren’t any programs that would fit her unique needs.  

Five years ago, Pistole recognized this reality after experiencing it secondhand through her sister. She created The Dancing Divas and Dudes, a nonprofit organization that serves the special needs community through dance.  

During a session with The Dancing Divas and Dudes, participants work on their physical fitness by improving their balance, technique, and strength. They also spend time learning and perfecting performance pieces that are shared at community events so audiences can experience the abilities and value of individuals with special needs. 

Although Pistole is now a full-time college student, she still manages to spend around 30 hours a week scheduling team events and activities, as well as coordinating volunteers.  

Pistole’s hard work has allowed for many people with special needs to find their place in society, develop the confidence to excel in life, and ultimately offer them a supportive community. 

Join Hands On Nashville for the 2020 Strobel Volunteer Awards on Sept. 14, 15, and 16.

Volunteer Andrew Befante trims tree debris.

After losing friends in the March 3 tornado, local musician and bartender turns to service to help others

By Ben Piñon HON Disaster Response Coordinator AmeriCorps member

Thousands of Nashvillians rushed to volunteer in the wake of the March 3 tornado. Andrew Benfante wasn’t one of them. 

“I didn’t have the emotional energy to do it,” Benfante says. “Normally I do — I like volunteering, I like helping people, but the time wasn’t right. Then COVID happened and the time really wasn’t right. It was kind of a hectic time for me, so I stayed away from everything.” 

Volunteer Andrew Benfante
removes storm debris from a
home.

Six months and a global pandemic later, Benfante is more than ready. He has now volunteered on four of HON’s debris-removal workdays since cleanup projects resumed in late June. Some days he has worked both the morning and afternoon shifts — cutting apart a mangled fence or moving heavy logs that came down in the storm. All for fellow Nashvillians he’s never met. 

Back in March, Benfante narrowly missed the worst of the damage where he lives in Germantown. He was out of power for four days. But that was just the beginning. The tornado had also taken not only his job, but two of his friends. 

Benfante worked at Attaboy, an East Nashville bar damaged by the tornado, which is still undergoing repairs. It’s also where he met his friends and co-workers, Michael Dolfini and his fiancée, Albree Sexton. They were all hanging out together shortly before the couple lost their lives in the tornado.

“He called her his hippie wife,” Benfante remembers fondly, “they had been together for so long.” 

“It was a tough night,” Benfante recalls, describing the Attaboy staff as a small, tight-knit group. He had left the bar only 30 minutes before the tornado touched down. “Those were some sad phone calls to make in the middle of the night. Calling just to see how everything was going, finding out that it wasn’t going well.”  

Volunteer Andrew Benfante
removes a wheelbarrow full
of storm debris from a home.

Benfante moved to Nashville four years ago. Like many, he came chasing music dreams. Just last year, he walked away from a band he had played with for eight years. Doing so led to a more recent reassessment of several aspects of his own life. Volunteering has been a really healthy part of that process, he says. 

Through his struggles over the past few months — navigating a pandemic, scraping by on unemployment, grieving friends — Benfante remains grateful for what he has to give.  

“I feel like if I have the time that others may not, I should freely give that time to the community while I’m being taken care of, at least temporarily,” he says. 

Giving back has left Benfante hopeful and inspired, humbled undoubtedly by the way he’s seen the Nashville community persevere in the face of tremendous challenges. 

“I think the less afraid we are of new things, of change, and each other… I think the more we trust each other, trust that everything balances out when it’s all said and done, the more joy we can find together as a community,” he says. “That’s most apparent to me right now in the kind of volunteer work that Hands On Nashville does. I’m happy to be a part of it.” 

Visit hon.org to find volunteer projects that meet critical needs in our community.

Sponsor spotlight: Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group

When a tornado devastated parts of Nashville on March 3, 2020, leaders at the Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group knew they wanted to do something big to help with the recovery effort. The company donated $120,000 — its largest ever one-time gift — to Hands On Nashville to support its mission to meet community needs through volunteerism. 

“We have been following along with Hands On Nashville’s efforts for years,” says John Gallagher, Vice President and Executive General Manager of Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group. “And knowing that recovery from the devastating tornados would take months — if not years —we knew it would require lots of volunteer hours. Hands On Nashville seemed like the perfect fit for our donation.” 

The donation directly supports ongoing tornado-relief efforts, including paying for supplies and staff salaries spent on disaster-recovery activities. 

“The support from the Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group is a game-changer for our tornado-relief efforts,” says HON President and CEO Lori Shinton. “Those funds are going directly to recruit and manage volunteers who are doing the important work of helping people put their lives back together after a major disaster.” 

For more than 25 years, Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group has had an active role supporting Middle Tennessee charities.  

From being the first corporation to enroll in Waves Office Recycling Program, to assisting those who lost their vehicles in the 2010 flood, to now supplying personal protective equipment to Williamson Medical Center – DWAG aims to be a company that cares about helping others.  

Gallagher says the company focuses much of its outreach and resources into two major programs, Hometown Heroes and Darrell Waltrip Automotive’s Drive Away Hunger Challenge

Hometown Heroes is a program honoring those who have shown a commitment to serving others and making a difference in their community. Community members nominate individuals, and each month a new hero is selected by DWAG, which makes a $500 donation to the charity of that hero’s choice.  

Volunteers of Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group participate in a breast cancer awareness fundraiser.

“One thing we learned through our Hometown Heroes event is just how many amazing people are at work in our communities, and how they are making a difference in big ways,” Gallagher says.  

This spring DWAG had planned to celebrate their 100th hero, but, due to COVID-19, plans have been tentatively postponed until May 2021.  

The company created Drive Away Hunger in 2013 as a fundraising event partnering with Williamson County high schools and GraceWorks. Through Drive Away Hunger, hundreds of thousands of pounds of food have been collected and donated to food pantries throughout Williamson County. The initiative has since expanded to include the Franklin Special School District and Williamson County elementary and middle schools.  

“We are so proud of all we have done in the community, and thankful for our customers who make it all possible,” Gallagher said.  

The automotive group’s first dealership – Darrell Waltrip Honda – opened in 1986. Since then, they’ve opened three more dealerships across Middle Tennessee.  

For more information about Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group’s history of service, click here

Darrell Waltrip Automotive – Disaster Relief Donation To Hands On Nashville

Darrell Waltrip Cares logo

NIC Inc. specialists assist Alive Hospice in increasing capacity for health care students

GeekCause matches Nashville’s most talented techies with community partners in need of their services. From tech consultation to solution implementation, GeekCause provides a low-cost platform for agencies to solve tech-based challenges through the support of skilled volunteers. The HON team periodically shares GeekCause project highlights to help show how skilled volunteers are having an impact in the community. 

Alive Hospice is a Middle Tennessee-based nonprofit that provides compassionate end-of-life care, palliative care, bereavement support, and community education. Each year, they engage hundreds of college students studying healthcare to help them learn about end-of-life care and gain real-life work experience.  

Prior to this year, members of the Alive team manually scheduled and tracked students’ progress within their Institute, and spent weeks compiling student data at the end of each semester. 

But they knew there had to be a better way. So they reached out to GeekCause to see if  skilled volunteers could help them find a solution. 

GeekCause paired Alive with volunteers from NIC Inc., the nation’s largest provider of government websites and digital services. NIC volunteers brought expansive knowledge of data storage and management solutions to the table — a great fit for Alive’s needs.  

The team of volunteers worked with the hospice provider to envision a solution for registering students and creating an all-in-one platform for them to enroll and assist with a variety of roles within the company. 

The registration portal feeds into a database that stores students’ data, allowing them to sign agreement forms virtually, sign up for shifts, and log other relevant information in the database. Volunteers were able to build a cloud-based storage system, which Alive can maintain for a low monthly fee. 

“With our complex needs, they were able to deliver an automated student onboarding platform that we’ll start using for fall registrations,” says Debbra Warden, Director of Contracting, Quality and Data Analytics at Alive Hospice. “The GeekCause team was wonderful to work with and accommodated our multiple requests for changes while we worked through our needs. They did everything with a smile every single time.” 

Deb Kilpatrick, a Project Manager with NIC Inc., led the volunteer team through the project. She and her team are proud of what they have been able to accomplish despite this year’s challenging circumstances.  

“We’re really just grateful the MSP (Microservice Platform) team had the opportunity to give back to our community,” Kilpatrick says. “Alive Hospice does so much to support those in unimaginable situations, and they handle themselves with such care and grace. We sincerely hope the effort our team has provided is a benefit and helps to simplify scheduling student experiences so they can focus on what they do best.” 

By tracking students’ progress through the Alive Institute, Alive staff will be able to more easily give educated, informative feedback to students’ professors, and use their data to apply for future funding opportunities. 

More about the Alive Hospice Institute 

Currently, Alive Hospice offers observational experiences for students enrolled in professional health care programs at Belmont University, Lipscomb University, Meharry Medical College, Middle Tennessee State University, Motlow Community College, Vanderbilt University, and University of Tennessee. 

While working with the Institute, students are under the direct supervision of a health care professional at Alive Hospice. This provides students the opportunity to begin understanding how Alive provides care to those with life-threatening illnesses, supporting patients’ families, and how Alive Hospice provides service to the community in a spirit of enriching lives. 

Did you know? Skilled tech volunteers have contributed 1,368 hours of service so far this year and provided the equivalent of $144,000 in services and support to our community partners! 🤯🤯🤯 

Could your nonprofit use some tech help? Does your tech-savvy work team want to give back to the community? Learn more about GeekCause here. 

Cheers to the outgoing 2019-2020 AmeriCorps members!

It is hard to believe August is nearly halfway over, which means it’s time to say goodbye to the 2019-2020 HON AmeriCorps cohort. For the past year, the HON AmeriCorps program engaged 19 civic-minded individuals in a yearlong term of service at local nonprofits. They received skills training, professional development, and networking opportunities, while building programmatic capacity at the agencies they supported. 

Between the devastating March 3 tornado and the communitywide impacts of COVID-19, this has been a challenging year. These AmeriCorps members have proven to be creative, resilient, and impactful in the face of these challenges, and they stepped up to lead in a time of crisis in our community.  

Please join us in wishing them well and read on to learn more about their most memorable experiences and teachable moments, and how the nonprofiteers at the organizations where they served feel about them. We could not be more grateful for this group, and they will all be dearly missed!  

Let’s hear from the leaders at the agencies where they served  

Ellen Barker, Community Partner Engagement Leader at Hands On Nashville

“Ellen has been a true joy to serve alongside for the past year. Every aspect of our operation she’s been involved with has been improved. I cannot image the last year with her as part of the team. Her spirit and willingness to learn will be dearly missed.” — Drew Himsworth (Community Partner Coordinator, Hands On Nashville) 

Paige Dawson, Sustainability Outreach Coordinator at Tennessee Environmental Council

“Paige’s infinite positivity and incredible work ethic will certainly be missed here! Oh, and let’s not forget all the entertaining animal rescue stories … A compassionate spirit, that one.  Incredibly quick learning and efficient.” – Julia Weber (Program Manager, Tennessee Environmental Council)   

Mary Eaton, Volunteer Outreach Leader at Hands On Nashville

“When the tornado hit in March, HON was inundated with emails and social media messages from people wanting to help and looking for access to services. Mary helped our team navigate and respond to thousands of inquiries, all while working a second job. She brings levity and humor to everything she does, and we’re so excited to see what her future holds!” — Lindsey Turner (Director of Communications, Hands On Nashville) 

Hayley Elliott, Volunteer Project Leader at Hands On Nashville 

“Hayley is a wonderful team member — always up for a challenge (hello, chainsaw!), ready to pitch in and work wherever needed, warm, funny, dedicated, and thoughtful about how she carries out her responsibilities. We’ll miss her terribly. She’s going to be a great success in the field of nonprofit management, and anyone who works with her will be fortunate to have her!” – Karin Weaver (Corporate Project Manager, Hands On Nashville) 

Samantha Estes, Citizen Science and Volunteer Restoration Project Coordinator at Harpeth Conservancy

“Samantha has been a pleasure to work with during her time at Harpeth Conservancy. Her passion and work ethic helped us develop a well-rounded volunteer engagement program and communication strategy.” — Ryan W. Jackwood, Director of Watershed Science & Restoration

Katin Liphart, Watershed Education and Renewal Coordinator at Richland Creek Watershed Alliance

“All programs outcomes and outputs have close to doubled with Katin on our team. She brought skills, commitment, team work, dedication and enthusiasm the position.” — Monette Rebecca (Richland Creek Watershed Alliance)

Ezra Schley, Sustainability Outreach Coordinator at Tennessee Environmental Council

“Ezra is one of the hardest working individuals we’ve ever gotten the pleasure of working with. He maneuvered through these trying times with grace and confidence.” — Julia Weber (Program Manager, Tennessee Environmental Council) 

Alex Stark, Environmental Education Coordinator at Cumberland River Compact

“Through her service term with the Cumberland River Compact’s education programs, Alex taught over 1,300 students across our region about the value of our water resources and inspired the future water stewards. Her contagious enthusiasm, creativity, and can-do attitude were an important asset to us in these changing times and she will be missed next year. Thank you, Alex!”  — Catherine Price (Education & Outreach Manager, Cumberland River Compact) 

 Matt Trotsky, Stream Restoration Coordinator at Cumberland River Compact

“Matt’s can-do attitude was a welcome addition to our AmeriCorps team. His willingness to jump in and help was always a welcome sight during the past year!” — Gray Perry (Program Manager, Clean Streams) 

Dylan Vines, Urban Tree Coordinator at Cumberland River Compact

“Dylan is a hard worker who takes initiative, and everyone who had the opportunity to work with him — staff, community volunteers, and more — enjoyed his easy-going nature and professionalism.” — Meg Morgan (Campaign Manager, Root Nashville) 

Let’s hear from the members themselves 

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Meriweather Bean, Community, Education & Outreach Coordinator at Harpeth Conservancy

“My favorite memory was seeing our Fall Wild & Scenic Film Festival come to fruition. This was really my first major responsibility in my service year and a great learning experience in event organizing, but also organizing with community partners. It was very rewarding to see it become a success and gave me confidence continuing through my service year.” 

Lexi Bolinski, Volunteer Project Leader at Hands On Nashville

“Serving alongside fellow AmeriCorps members and staff at Hands On Nashville during tornado cleanup efforts was by far the most memorable and life-changing moment of this year of service. Being able to assist those impacted by the disaster while learning from the talented staff at HON was an experience unlike any other.” 

Amber Lopatine, Urban Forest Strategic Initiatives Coordinator at Nashville Tree Foundation

“The most rewarding part of my service year was helping with the tornado relief efforts. It was really impactful to see so many people come together during this time and lend a hand in whatever way they could.”

Jasmine Lucas, Communications & Community Engagement Coordinator at Plant the Seed

“I’ve learned about a variety of stages nonprofits can operate out of. Rolling with the punches is a MUST when serving with nonprofits, but it is quite rewarding in the end when everyone takes on the punches and powers through together. You see the resilience of community through nonprofits.” 

Ben Piñon, Disaster Response Coordinator at Hands On Nashville*

Ben speaks on his favorite memory: “During the tornado response as I was walking the streets directing volunteers, I got a call from a guy offering his assistance including some heavy machinery he had. When he said he was from Maryland all of a sudden, I was speechless. He said hello a couple of times thinking the call had dropped. I told him I was just at a loss for words, touched that people wanted to come help from so far away.” 

*Ben also served with Plant the Seed but transitioned to HON when schools closed in the spring as a result of COVID-19.

Lily Sronkoski, Garden Programming and Partnerships Coordinator at Plant the Seed

“I thought I was adaptable before this year, but I was wrong. I truly learned how to be adaptable this year.” 

Jessa Tremblay, Programming and Partnerships Coordinator at Plant the Seed

Jessa speaks highly of her time serving over the course of the year: “Kids are hilarious. The things they say to you are so bizarre, but so wonderful. It was absolutely wonderful getting to know my students over time and I always went to work grateful that I was getting to teach them and get to know them better.” 

Haley Tucker, Citizen Science & Restoration Coordinator at Harpeth Conservancy

When asked what new skills she learned: “Website building/design, volunteer organization, science/restoration, etc., all of which can be carried into future jobs.” 

Join us for an online celebration of outstanding volunteers!

Back in the spring, due to COVID-19, we postponed the 34th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards until September. Because coronavirus cases locally and nationally continue to rise, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Strobel luncheon. But don’t despair — we are still going to celebrate this year’s outstanding nominees and their impact! We’ll just be doing it digitally, which means you can celebrate those who go above and beyond from wherever you happen to be.

We hope you’ll join us!

When: Sept. 14, 15, 16 

Where: On hon.org and our social media channels: InstagramFacebookTwitterLinkedIn

What: We’ll honor this year’s nominees and finalists by sharing their stories of service through written stories and video. Plus we’ll announce the recipients in each of the six award categories. 

Are you a nominee? Or a general ticket holder?

If you did not receive an email from our team with information and next steps on what to do as a nominee or a ticket purchaser, feel free to check here, or reach out to us at hon@hon.org for further assistance. 

How to request HON assistance with debris cleanup

Earlier this year, tornado cleanup efforts were paused in light of recommendations to stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many residential areas affected by the tornado are still dealing with debris cleanup needs. We want to do our part in alleviating some of that unwanted waste, with the help of volunteers!

If you’re still dealing with fallen trees and debris on your property from the March 3 tornado, volunteers may be able to help you clear the debris and get it to the curb for city pickup! Visit hubNashville online or via the hubNashville app to report the debris and a Hands On Nashville team member will reach out for more details. Got questions? Email us at hon@hon.org

As an added resource, if you were affected by the Middle Tennessee tornado and require further assistance beyond debris cleanup, call the Tornado Recovery Connection at (615) 270-9255.

Survey shows volunteers want to help, but are concerned about exposure to COVID-19

In June, Hands On Nashville invited community members to take a survey gauging their thoughts and attitudes toward volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hope was to get a clearer picture of how volunteers felt about weighing the risks of volunteering against the expanding needs in our community, so that we can work with our nonprofit partners to carve out safe and impactful ways volunteers can help Nashville get through this tough time.

Thank you to everyone who took the survey and shared their thoughts with us! 

The survey was completed by 223 individuals, the majority of whom identify as having volunteered through HON before.

Screen Shot 2020-07-13 at 7.41.54 AM

Respondents indicate an increased desire to volunteer in part because of events including the March 3 tornado. However, more than half of respondents also report worrying that volunteering will increase their risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Respondents also report that they don’t necessarily have more time to volunteer now than they did earlier in the year, before the tornado and pandemic hit. A solid majority indicated they would volunteer more once the pandemic was over.

Screen Shot 2020-07-13 at 7.42.12 AM

We asked respondents to evaluate a handful of volunteer scenarios and and gauge their comfort levels with each. Overall they reported greater comfort levels with outdoor projects and projects capped at 10 people. Their comfort levels fell the larger the project attendance grew. Respondents also report feeling much more comfortable volunteering at a project where all the other volunteers are known, as opposed to volunteering with a group of strangers. (To create a volunteer team that can sign up for projects together, click here.)

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We asked respondents to share any additional thoughts they had on volunteering during the pandemic, and several respondents replied that they are in a high-risk category — either through their age, their baseline health status, or both — and do not feel comfortable volunteering. A good portion of Nashville’s volunteer base is retirement age, so we anticipate this consideration is having a substantial impact on the number of overall volunteers serving at this time. Some respondents also replied that they are a caretaker for someone in a high-risk category, and do not want to expose themselves for fear of transmitting the virus to the high-risk person in their care.

Several respondents also commented about how they would prefer to volunteer remotely — from home or delivering things in their car — during this time. (To see a roundup of virtual volunteer projects, click here.)

Some other comments:

I’m more than willing to volunteer as long as I am protected and those around me are as well. If proper guidelines are being followed and there aren’t a mass of people on top of each other, I would also feel comfortable.

I would absolutely love to help, but until the pandemic is over, I am extremely uncomfortable participating in any volunteering event where I’d be in close proximity to anyone else, especially if they aren’t required to wear a mask at all times.

I, like many, am unsure of what to do. Really want to volunteer, but unsure if bringing myself into a scenario will put others at risk. Also, unsure if I will need to limit my exposure to my workplace or to family, etc. as a result.

There is no question that fear of COVID-19 is limiting my willingness to volunteer these days though I have made some food deliveries and done a few solo clean-up projects.

I am reluctant to be around individuals I do not know. I am learning more and more that many people are being quite cavalier about their exposure to COVID-19.

I have less time with kids home and a son with a mild heart condition. So, I can possibly do things out of my house or where I can run around in my car (with some of my kids possibly). My kids would like to help as well, just worry about Covid right now.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) updates for volunteers and public gatherings

UPDATE 9:55 a.m. Friday, Oct. 5

Nashville has moved into a modified version of Phase Three. Information about the specifics of the guidelines can be found here. HON will retain the 25-person cap for volunteer projects posted on our website, and recommendations stay the same for social distancing, masks, hand hygiene, and other precautions. Because of the move to Phase Three, many organizations may resume more normal activities, which may mean a wider variety of volunteer projects available on our calendar. Volunteers are still very much needed to help our community get through this!

UPDATE 10:46 p.m. Friday, July 3

Nashville transitioned back to a modified version of Phase Two today. Information about the specifics of the modified phase guidelines can be found here. Guidelines for group sizes remain largely the same — gatherings are capped at 25 people — but we encourage volunteers to wear masks, practice proper social distancing, be vigilant about hand washing, and conduct as much business outdoors as possible.

UPDATE 1:51 p.m. Friday, June 26

As the city of Nashville moves into Phase Three of Mayor Cooper’s Roadmap for Reopening Nashville, guidelines for volunteering and group size remain largely unchanged from Phase Two. 

We’ve added a COVID-19 section to our website at hon.org/covid19. There you will find the latest updates about volunteering, and opportunities to support disaster relief during this time.

UPDATE 3:47 p.m. Wednesday, June 10

Volunteer project guidelines and parameters are evolving as our city continues to move through the phases of reopening. Here are some things to know about volunteering during Phase Two of Mayor Cooper’s Roadmap for Reopening Nashville:

  • A wider variety of projects is available on hon.org, including park cleanups, community garden prep, and more. Check out our calendar to see what’s coming up.
  • The attendance cap on projects has been raised from 10 volunteers to 25, and we have asked our partners to only recruit for the number of volunteers they can accommodate while still heeding social distancing guidelines.
  • Our partner agencies are working to ensure that projects are safe for volunteers, staff, and the community. We have added a question regarding safety to the feedback survey we send out after every project, so if volunteers feel unsafe we can address those concerns on a project by project basis.
Thank you, volunteers, for all you’re doing to help meet needs in our community!
  

UPDATE 12:27 p.m. Tuesday, April 7

Volunteer Tennessee has issued helpful guidelines for those wanting to volunteer safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read and download them here.

UPDATE 12 p.m. Tuesday, March 17

The situation regarding COVID-19 precautions and how they affect tornado relief efforts is changing rapidly. HON continues to work with OEM and city health officials to evolve our disaster response efforts in real time.

Some measures we are taking to help keep community members safe:

— We are asking our partners to post only volunteer projects that pertain to meeting urgent needs in the community, which we are defining as food and shelter. We are collaborating with our partners and others in the community who are doing this work to identify how volunteers can best support them and be safe at this time, and will provide updates as we have actionable information that meets safety guidelines.

We are urging our partners to limit group sizes at projects to 10 people for the next 15 days, at which point we will evaluate whether this time period needs to be extended.

— We are continuing to ask volunteers who feel unwell to rest at home rather than attend projects.

— We encourage volunteers to use their own discretion when deciding whether to attend a volunteer project.

— We are working on identifying ways volunteers can help our partners remotely during this time.

UPDATE 7:06 p.m. Thursday, March 12

HON is working closely with OEM and the city as the COVID-19 situation evolves. As a result of the health department’s recommendations, we’re looking at a number of adjustments heading toward the weekend:

—  limiting the maximum number of volunteers at projects to 50

— stocking projects with hand sanitizer

— requesting that volunteers who feel like they’re getting sick rest at home instead of coming to projects

Please make sure you read the information at this link and continue to heed best practices regarding limiting contact with others, washing hands, etc.

Volunteers who feel unsure about exposure risk and would rather not chance it should feel free to go to their hon.org accounts and remove themselves from projects.

HON will continue to provide updates and evolve plans as needed in collaboration with the city of Nashville, OEM, and the health department.

Original post on Wednesday 3/11 at 12:25 p.m.:

As concerns grow about the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and the Nashville Public Health Department have shared following information and resources:

Basics that are always best practice:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly (at least 20 seconds, with soap)
  • Don’t touch your face, especially with unwashed hands
  • Minimize hand-to-hand contact with others

Additional information: