The days since a tornado tore through Middle Tennessee just over a month ago have been long and exhausting for Tina Doniger and Maria Amado, who serve as the executive director and board chair, respectively, of the Community Resource Center. The CRC, which regularly supplies basic essentials to agencies serving vulnerable populations in more than 24 counties, was activated following the storm to serve as Metro Nashville’s collection and distribution point for donations deployed to survivors throughout the region.
For Doniger and Amado, even though the days sometimes blur together, it’s the acts of kindness and generosity that stand out.
Amado shares the story of Levi, a 3-year-old boy who came to the center with his grandmother to drop off donations.
“Levi is about 3 and a half, 4 years old, and he is sucking his thumb,” Amado recalls, retrieving a sandwich bag of coins and dollar bills from across the room. “And he had emptied out his piggy bank. For the kids who lost their homes.”
Then there’s Joe Pollard, president of the Bank of Odessa, Mo., who, upon realizing the CRC didn’t have a box truck of their own, donated the one he had driven down to donate supplies. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that left Doniger and Amado speechless.
The stories of generosity add up — volunteers who came for two hours and stayed for two weeks, those who took time off from their own jobs to volunteer, those who donated knowledge and skills to help the CRC expand its reach — and take the shape of a community pulling together to make an impact far greater than could have been made by one or two individuals.
As COVID-19 sent shock waves through the region, complicating tornado relief efforts and compounding community needs, Doniger says the CRC has continued to evolve its disaster response to meet those rapidly shifting needs.
“The service we provide is essential for people moving forward,” says Doniger — who is the CRC’s sole paid employee. “There’s now even more added pressure on the people who have been serving, and more added pressure on us to find people to help.”
Keeping volunteers healthy is top of mind for Doniger, who says she provides every safety measure she can for volunteers. She provides gloves, masks, and disinfectant. Within the warehouse, volunteers stay apart, sorting their donations on their respective shelves. Donation drop-offs are now conducted without any person-to-person contact.
“The only way to keep going is for people to help us do the work,” Doniger said. “If we don’t continue doing what we do, we won’t be prepared to service the people. As long as we are healthy, and we can open this door, we are going to serve people no matter what.”
The AmeriCorps program celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. To commemorate the occasion, we checked in with Susannah Fotopulos, the first AmeriCorps member ever placed at Hands On Nashville. Fotopulos went on to found and direct Plant the Seed, a Nashville nonprofit that provides experiential education to children ages 4-14 through garden-based learning.
When were you an AmeriCorps member? Where did you serve and what role did you have?
In 2003 I served at Hands On Nashville as their inaugural Citizen Action AmeriCorps member. This was a specific type of indirect service position created in partnership with the HandsOn Network and designed to increase volunteer opportunities in HandsOn communities.
How did AmeriCorps prepare you to start Plant the Seed?
My placement as the first AmeriCorps member at Hands On Nashville was during a time of rapid growth, which gave me an amazing chance to build a program from idea to delivery. It gave me a testing ground to conceive how to address a community need, deliver that program, and evaluate its effectiveness. My AmeriCorps service year was such an amazing way to grow my entrepreneurial spirit!
How does it feel to come full circle with AmeriCorps, having fourmembers serve at your own nonprofit?
It’s wild! I feel like having four AmeriCorps members is a cool indicator of our growth and a marker of scale and legitimacy in our ability to manage AmeriCorps members. I also see it as a way for Plant the Seed to live out our mission of being a learning organization by helping young adults develop the skills and next steps for their careers.
What’s something you are looking forward to teaching these members that you took from your own experience with AmeriCorps?
I hope these new AmeriCorps members learn flexibility, gratitude, resilience, how to create something they can call their own, how to bring an open mind to new learning opportunities, and how to feel like they have made a legitimate difference to effect positive change in the world.
At Insight Counseling Centers, VIPs are more than just celebrities (though they’re still very important people). Volunteer Intake Practitioners (VIPs) serve as the front line for Insight. They field callers’ questions, conduct intake interviews, and match new clients with the right mental health professionals.
Formerly known as the Pastoral Counseling Centers of Tennessee, Insight Counseling Centers offers spiritually integrative counseling services for individuals, couples, and families. The organization also offers training and mental health awareness education.
As one of the first volunteers in the Intake Department, VIP Victoria Driver began taking potential clients’ phone calls. Victoria learned Insight’s electronic medical records software in order to enter client information and make appointments, and then offered to help Insight’s Financial Coordinator, Brydget Carrillo, with additional tasks. Driver developed an integral front-of-house role to include indispensable behind-the-scenes service.
“We rely on her, and she does not disappoint,” Carrillo said of Driver. “Whenever I volunteer, Victoria is the person I want to emulate.”
While volunteers support Insight, Insight supports its volunteers. Many VIPs hope to someday become counselors themselves, and Insight gives them practical experience in a unique and progressive agency. Volunteers also often connect with Insight’s mission because their family members, or they themselves, have healed through counseling. At Insight, they’re able to give back the life-changing and life-saving service they received.
Volunteers like Driver have helped extend Insight’s reach in Middle Tennessee. Since 1985, Insight has expanded to eight centers throughout the area and delivers 5,000 hours of counseling each year. Insight’s Advisory Council meets monthly to promote community outreach and to fundraise for the organization’s financial assistance program. In 2016, volunteers on the council contributed to a 46 percent increase to the financial assistance provided between 2015 and 2016.
Insight Counseling Centers provides quality, spiritually integrative mental health counseling services for individuals, couples, and families; training for professionals; and mental health awareness education for communities in Middle Tennessee. Browse all volunteer opportunities with Insight here.
Ever felt nervous before a job interview? Imagine going into a prospective employer’s office after weeks, months, or even years of isolation from the world.
Project Return supports people returning from incarceration and reintegrating into our community. As the agency’s 2017 Annual Report notes, “Employment is the paramount predictor of their good future, and wraparound support is imperative.” With this in mind, Project Return delivers a holistic job-readiness program. The program emphasizes many facets of employment success and features classes on financial literacy, body language during interviews, and best practices for discussing one’s conviction history with potential employers. The agency also hosts mock interviews.
Mock interviews have become one of the program’s most valuable services, and they’re powered by volunteers. Participants meet with their assigned volunteer interviewers, discuss potential job types, and practice the skills they’ve learned in class.
Many of these volunteers are full-time employees themselves. Project Return boasts an extensive corporate volunteer résumé, with companies like IQ Talent Partners and Eventbrite channeling their social responsibility programs through the agency. Corporate volunteers find that Project Return offers flexible schedules without a huge time commitment. Some volunteers even come in on their lunch breaks! Since December, volunteer participation has doubled.
Christine Meyer, Volunteer and Events Coordinator at Project Return, hypothesized that volunteer interest stems from the opportunities for proximity and connection: “The interesting thing about [Project Return] is that volunteers are really engaging with participants. One on one, they make an impact – they see the progress participants are making and share stories. John that you mock interviewed two weeks ago got a job and he’s really excited!”
As volunteer numbers continue to increase, so does Project Return’s outreach. Many volunteers return on a weekly basis, and new volunteers reach out to Project Return through HON each month. In 2017, Project Return provided its signature services to nearly 1,000 men and women who were starting their lives over after prison.
Project Return’s return on investment in its clients is high: the agency consistently achieves a less-than 15% re-incarceration rate (as compared to 47% statewide and 57% nationwide). As for employment outcomes, research shows that 60-75% of people coming out of prison will remain unemployed for the first 12 months of freedom; however, the employment rate at Project Return exceeds 80%.
April 25, 2018 – Middle Tennesseans were honored for their volunteerism at Hands On Nashville’s 32nd Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, presented by Advance Financial Foundation.
The award recipients are as follows:
Cheri Ferrari – Capacity-building Volunteer Award
Operation Song – Civic Volunteer Group Award
Media Star Promotions – Corporate Volunteerism Award
Leeana Edwards – Direct Service Volunteer Award (Ages five to 20)
Sean Druffel – Direct Service Volunteer Award (Ages 21 to 49)
Anthony J. Viglietti – Direct Service Volunteer Award (Ages 50+)
More than 600 volunteers and community members attended the luncheon and ceremony at Music City Center. The annual event recognizes volunteers for their outstanding contributions to the community, and celebrates the life of Mary Catherine Strobel, a Nashvillian with an outstanding dedication to service.
Nashville in Harmony opened the awards ceremony with a choir performance in recognition of the award nominees and finalists. Great-granddaughter of Mary Catherine Strobel, Veronica Pierce, shared an invocation prior to the meal; Charles Strobel, son of Mary Catherine Strobel and founding director of Room In The Inn, closed the ceremony with remarks about his mother’s legacy and the value of service.
“Hands On Nashville’s inspiration for the Strobel Volunteer Awards is to tell the stories of volunteers like Mary Catherine Strobel,” said Lori Shinton, President and CEO of Hands On Nashville. “We are honored to create a space to recognize their work, their impact, and be reminded of the many opportunities we all have to support each other as volunteers.”
Community members submitted 126 nominations for the 2018 Strobel Volunteer Awards.
“In our nation and our community, there are major needs and ordinary needs. Most of them go without asking. One of the most distinguishing marks about Mama is that she anticipated the needs of so many, and so do the volunteers we honor today,” said Charles Strobel, son of Mary Catherine Strobel and founding director of Room in the Inn. “It’s our family’s great joy to be part of this tribute.”
Following is a list of award recipients for each category and a brief description of the volunteer work for which they are recognized.
Cheri Ferrari received the 2018 Capacity-building Volunteer Award for her work with The Nashville Food Project. The award honors individuals who provide significant operational or administrative support to a nonprofit agency, faith-based ministry or community organization.
Operation Song, which pairs musicians with veterans and active-duty military to write songs through partnership, received the 2018 Civic Volunteer Group Award. The category honors representatives of civic, membership, faith-based or non-corporate groups that volunteer together for a specific cause or issue.
Media Star Promotions received the 2018 Corporate Volunteerism Award in honor of its ongoing service to The Nashville Food Project. The award pays tribute to businesses that have robust employee volunteer programs with high levels of participation and impact.
The Direct Service Volunteer Awards recognize individuals who have contributed significant volunteer time, energy and/or resources to support an agency’s constituents. Leeana Edwards, a volunteer at Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Alvin C. York VA Medical Center, received the 2018 award for the category honoring nominees of ages five to 20.
Sean Druffel, longtime Habitat for Humanity ReStore volunteer, received the 2018 Direct Service Volunteer Award for ages 21 to 49.
Anthony J. Viglietti, a volunteer with Nashville Cherry Blossom Fesitval and Friends of Riverside Drive, received the 2018 Direct Service Volunteer Award for ages 50 plus. Viglietti led the effort to plant more than 1,000 Japanese cherry trees throughout Nashville’s streets and public spaces.
Please contact Jessica Moog at Hands On Nashville: (615) 298-1108 ext. 415; firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards
The Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards are named in memory of the late Mary Catherine Strobel, known for her extensive and charitable efforts toward improving the lives of Middle Tennessee’s homeless, impoverished and less fortunate populations. The annual awards ceremony celebrates her service and recognizes those who continue her legacy. View all nominees for the 2018 awards.
About Hands On Nashville
Hands On Nashville (HON) builds capacity for individuals and agencies to meet needs through service. Its programs connect volunteers to opportunities supporting 100+ nonprofits, schools, and other civic organizations; help these partners reimagine volunteer potential; and bring awareness to the challenges facing the people and places in our community. For more information, visit HON.org or call (615) 298-1108.
NASHVILLE – September 23, 2017 – This morning, more than 1,000 volunteers came together for the 26th 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 painted hallways, gymnasiums and more.
“Today’s volunteers aren’t just sprucing up schools,” said Dennis Neal, executive director of the Facility and Grounds Maintenance Department at Metro Nashville Public Schools. “They’re showing support for the MNPS students and families who learn and grow in these spaces every day.”
Hands On Nashville partnered with numerous community organizations and businesses in support of the day of service. A team of employee volunteers from Altria, the presenting sponsor, completed projects at Cora Howe School. Nashville Tree Foundation and Cumberland River Compact also contributed support.
“Hands On Nashville Day helps us give back to the community in which we live and work,” said Altria’s Mark Czuba. “It’s powerful to see what we can accomplish as a team, especially as we focus on a cause as important as our local schools.”
Metro Public Works partnered with the event for the second year as part of Mayor Megan Barry’s Fall Green & Clean initiative, sponsoring 100 tree plantings. Funding was provided through a Community Partner Grant from Lowe’s/Keep America Beautiful (KAB), a national nonprofit that inspires and educates people to improve and beautify community environments.
The Nashville Tree Foundation supported the event through the Green Shirt Volunteer program, which recognizes volunteers who have experience planting trees at NTF events or have related professional qualifications. Green Shirt Volunteers trained and supervised Hands On Nashville Day projects to ensure proper planting methods, and will do so for additional planting projects in the community.
“Hands On Nashville’s mission – to meet community needs through volunteerism – truly comes alive on this day,” said Lori Shinton, president and CEO of Hands On Nashville. “Our team has the unique position to see the impact volunteers contribute to our city every day, and events like Hands On Nashville Day highlight this impact for our entire community.”
Throughout Hands On Nashville’s 26 years, more than 26,000 volunteers have engaged in 75,000 hours of Hands On Nashville Day service, creating an economic impact valued at nearly $2 million, according to Independent Sector research.
To support Hands On Nashville’s work, please consider purchasing a commemorative HON Day 2017 t-shirt. $20 of the $26 t-shirt price goes directly to Hands On Nashville. Learn more at http://www.hon.org/honday.
Enjoy local artists performing great music, poetry, and storytelling;
Taste wonderful food from around the world; and
Engage in a wide range of fun activities for people of all ages.
The event is free with plenty of free parking. MTA riders will discover easy access using route 42 – St. Cecilia / Cumberland.
Volunteers: Stand up and be recognized!
At 2 p.m., we’ll pause to recognize and thank the festival’s volunteers, and their role as some of the 10,000 volunteers serving our community through Hands On Nashville. Share your story about the work you do to make our community a better place to live. Help inspire others to volunteer and make a difference.
Volunteers are good neighbors
“The Nashville Neighborhoods Celebration is inspired by the qualities of every great neighbor,” said Jim Hawk, executive director at the Neighborhoods Resource Center and organizer of Good Neighbor Day. “Hands On Nashville Volunteers are good neighbors, too!
If you believe being a Good Neighbor is important part of life—and I believe most volunteers do—then you’ll be in the right place!”
Of course, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities if you want to help make Good Neighbor Day a great day.
The Celebration’s volunteer needs are listed below. You might expect some opportunities, such as greeting folks, taking photos, setting up and breaking down. Others might come as a surprise – for example, the Celebration is recruiting more than a dozen kazoo players to provide a soundtrack for the competitions and parades.
Browse the list, click your favorite to sign up, and help the Neighborhoods Resource Center make the Nashville Neighborhoods Celebration the city’s most welcoming event!
It was a privilege to partner with Hands On Nashville in November and work alongside our motivational leader, Amy Maloney, Director of Corporate Relations for Hands On Nashville. Amy not only gave us a sense of urgency during the preparation leading up to the Extreme Nonprofit Makeover, but she also grounded every volunteer involved in the purpose of our mission. In crucial moments, she reminded us that all our efforts gave the East Nashville community hope in helping East Nashville Cooperative Ministry better able to supply emergency food, clothing, and cooking education to low-income families, at-risk youth and the homeless population.
The Extreme Makeover Day was amazing! The energy the Davita volunteers brought to the event was more than inspiring. They tackled the most tedious tasks with joy and determination. Without a doubt they accomplished skilled tasks with precision and left behind a fresh, bright, safe, functional facility and garden. It was a great feeling to be in the moment around such energy. The overwhelming feeling throughout the day was “I am exactly where I am supposed to be, today.”
Hands down the best memory of the week was working with a neighbor/client of the East Nashville Cooperative Ministry – Eric. On the first day Eric did not know how to use a measuring tape, had never seen a speed square and was gun shy (to say the least!) when it came to our framing gun. By the end of the week, Eric not only was working with his own pencil and speed square, he was making his own measurements and cuts, and finished building the fence around the garden alone with a framing gun! What an accomplishment – He is a great guy, a hardworker, and someone that is a joy to get to know.
In mid-November, hundreds of corporate and community volunteers descended on East Nashville Cooperative Ministry, a nonprofit that helps the elderly, poor, disabled, unemployed, and disadvantaged with emergency food assistance and access to clothing. They painted, hammered, cleaned, and planted, and it resulted in an incredible makeover for the organization’s facility. This project would not have been possible without the help of several volunteers who shared their time and professional expertise. Benjamin Hammond, owner of Hammond Contracts, was one of the skilled volunteers who played a critical role in making this project a success. Benjamin served as an integral leader for the highly skilled projects, including demolition and trim work, custom shelving for the food pantry, interior and exterior tables, and a 154-foot fence around the garden. Thank you to Benjamin for his time and talent, and for sharing his experiences via this post.
Interested in learning how you can share your professional or trade skills with the community? Visit Hands On Nashville’s skills-based volunteering webpage to find out.
Check out Hands On Nashville’s new creative video, featuring incredible Middle Tennessee volunteers. If you are as inspired as we are, make plans to volunteer at a local nonprofit to start 2012 off right! Visit www.HON.org to view opportunities, including ways to serve on MLK Day weekend Jan. 14-16.