Tag Archives: giving back

VolunTEEN: A Meal Ready to Serve

Corey headshotGuest Post by Corey Wu
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Corey Wu, a rising junior at John Overton High School, is one of the four inaugural Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Corey leads service learning opportunities that address homelessness.

Spending time at The Nashville Food Project (TNFP) has made me really appreciate individuals who devote their time and effort in the name of helping the less fortunate. Their organization is a fairly new one compared to Hands On Nashville. However, TNFP’s presence in the Nashville area is a successful one that I deeply admire.

TNFP is a nonprofit organization that is solely dedicated to feeding the hungry and the needy. The Food Project’s main customers are people who are living in assisted government housing and people who are struggling to make ends meet. They keep their organization running by maintaining a garden full of fresh vegetables and purchasing nearly-expired food items by the pound for discounted prices. They cook their purchased produce as soon as possible, and all of the meals and dishes are created by their dedicated chefs and, of course, our volunteers.

Leading a group of volunteers at their location gives everyone a large range of tasks to do. Whether it is washing collard greens or cutting roasted chicken, every volunteer has something to do during the two hours of work. Many of the volunteers, especially the younger ones, enjoy getting their hands dirty in the garden. Personally speaking, I enjoy baking brownies and cutting the poultry just because it makes me feel like a chef.

Determination and compassion are two adjectives that I think of when describing the folks at TNFP. After a long day of cooking and preparing, their hard work truly pays off when they deliver their homemade goods to grateful individuals.

Learn more about HON’s VolunTEEN program here!

corey.wheelchair ramp
Corey hard at work constructing a wheelchair ramp.

VolunTEEN: What the Future Looks Like

Emily headshotGuest Post by Emily McAndrew,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Emily McAndrew, a rising junior at Merrol Hyde Magnet School, is one of the four inaugural Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Emily leads service learning opportunities that address hunger.

When thinking of the future, many adults fear that the new generation is too lazy, too self-centered, or too unenthusiastic to lead the nation. But in spending the past three weeks around teens who voluntarily give up their time to serve others, I can say without a doubt that this generation is ready to build a bright future.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the day of my first project. I was worried that the teens wouldn’t like me or that they wouldn’t listen to me. But as the volunteers came in, my fears were diminished. They were all here to serve and have fun just like myself!

I have led kids from all different backgrounds. Most of them have volunteered at multiple HON VolunTEEN projects. Through getting to work with these teens at different times, I have gotten to know some of them pretty well. Each volunteer brings a different aspect to the group, but I have learned that they each share one thing in common: a desire to make a difference.

Although the nation may have a preconceived notion that all teenagers are unfit to be the leaders of tomorrow, I have learned differently. I have met the most hard-working and selfless youth working with HON. These volunteers are our future.

Learn more about HON’s youth leader programs here!

Youth volunteers taking a quick break at Second Harvest Food Bank.
Youth volunteers taking a quick break at Second Harvest Food Bank.

VolunTEEN: The Pencil Foundation

Runze headshotGuest Post by Runze Zhang,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Runze Zhang, a rising junior at Martin Luther King High Academic Magnet School, is one of four inaugural  Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Runze leads service learning opportunities that address health and wellness.

Leading volunteer projects has been wonderful to say the least. The opportunities provided by Hands On Nashville have allowed me to develop leadership skills and form friendships as well.

My projects revolve around health and wellness, which I am most interested in. In addition to sharing information about healthy living with others, I have learned some valuable lessons on the topic myself.

One of my best experiences so far was sorting school supplies with the Pencil Foundation, during which I focused on mental health. All of the volunteers served eagerly and diligently and showed great teamwork. Although they were all under the age of eighteen, the volunteers understood the purpose and importance of the project — providing free school supplies to teachers. Kim, the Pencil Foundation project supervisor, infected everyone with her enthusiasm and motivated me to continue working with the foundation.

After leading several projects as a youth leader for Hands On Nashville, I have realized my passion for volunteering and helping others, and they are both things that I hope to maintain for the rest of my life.

Learn more about HON’s VolunTEEN program here!

Volunteers sort donated school supplies for the Pencil Foundation.

VolunTEEN: Seeing the Yield of Your Crop

Emily headshotGuest Post by Emily McAndrew,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Emily McAndrew, a rising junior at Merrol Hyde Magnet School, wanted to be a Summer Youth Leader so that she could learn how to be a better leader while helping others. Emily chose to focus on hunger because she wants to teach youth that the issue is not just something that exists in developing countries.

When volunteering, if you aren’t working directly with the person or people you are helping, it can be difficult to fully grasp the impact of your efforts.

While organizing food in the freezing coolers of the Second Harvest Food Bank as an HON Summer Youth Leader, I did not realize how much my work and the work of my fellow volunteers truly meant until I got to work at the East Nashville Cooperative Ministry (ENCM), a recipient of food donations from Second Harvest.

ENCM’s mission is to improve health and welfare of the residents of the East Nashville community. They do this by offering healthy meals, food, and other necessities to people in the area. The ministry is one of two recipients of Second Harvest that do not accept cakes or dessert items.

My group has helped in the garden and has cooked for the clients of ENCM. My favorite part of the projects was to help cook. The food that is cooked is a combination of produce from the garden and donated items from Second Harvest. It is so cool to think that the food I was preparing one day could have been the same food that I was organizing the day before! What I have learned from my experiences so far as a Summer Youth Leader is that volunteering always has an impact on someone, whatever the task may be. I urge everyone in the community to volunteer and make their own impact.

Learn more about HON’s VolunTEEN program here!

Volunteers preparing some amazing burgers!
Volunteers preparing some amazing burgers!

VolunTEEN: The Importance of Appreciation

Corey headshotGuest Post by Corey Wu,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Corey Wu, a rising junior at John Overton High School, is one of the four inaugural Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Corey leads service learning opportunities that address homelessness.

My experience with Hands On Nashville so far has been an inspirational and altogether self-reflecting journey. The time that I’ve spent with the youth volunteers who are helping out at the Rescue Mission or at the Nashville Food Project has restored my faith in volunteerism in this day of age. Seeing the happiness from the homeless as they receive meals from the determined volunteers warms my heart.

On my first day as a volunteer leader, I was meticulous in my preparations prior to the arrival of the volunteers. I was a bit uneasy because the Rescue Mission was a whole new environment that I had no prior experience in, and I was unsure how everything would turn out. However, as the session began I met Kim, a staffer at the Rescue Mission, who created an altruistic environment for all of her guests and regulars. Her positive attitude and outlook gave me a sense of perseverance that persuaded me to continue to strive for the best and motivate all of the volunteers who made the day possible.

As the day went by and the food line began to slow down, I began to appreciate the value of volunteering and realize the importance of doing so. I learned that volunteering is not just about picking up roadside litter or planting a tree, it’s about helping others.

Learn more about HON’s VolunTEEN program here!

Corey and two of his fellow volunteers in the kitchen.
Corey and two of his fellow volunteers in the kitchen.

Giving Time, Talent, and Heart

MPFcomboDirect service is all about hands-on efforts that further an organization’s mission. For the past eight years, the work of the talented individuals at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations has embodied the heart of the Mary Catherine Strobel Direct Service Award. Through the company’s generous gifts of time and expertise, MP&F artfully tells the HON story to media, volunteers, and other stakeholders, allowing HON to recruit more volunteers and make a bigger impact in the community. And HON isn’t the only charity that benefits from MP&F’s generosity: In 2012, MP&F provided more than 2,600 hours of pro bono service to 26 Middle Tennessee nonprofit organizations.

“We have seen the power of direct service and what it can mean for nonprofits,” said MP&F founding partner Mike Pigott. “We are proud to honor finalists for the Strobel Direct Service Award who are doing life-changing direct service work in our community: Colleen Dowd, Steve and Deb LaForge, and Richard Lloyd.”

McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations is the Direct Service Award Presenting Sponsor for the the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards.

10,000 Miles for Hands On Nashville

Guest post by Drew Staniewski –

Drew, Ryan and the Giggle MachineIn a few days, fellow Nashvillian (and current D.C. transplant) Ryan Townsend and I will be embarking on the travel adventure of a lifetime by participating in the Mongol Rally. Quite possibly the holy grail of all road trips, the Mongol Rally is 10,000 miles of pure adventure across more than a dozen countries and over 1/3 of the planet from London to Mongolia.

To accomplish this mighty feat, we purchased a woefully unqualified vehicle in the United Kingdom. Our “steed” is going on 10 years old, has well over 100,000 miles of wear and tear, and has an engine capacity of 1.3 liters (try finding a car in the States these days with an engine that small!).

In short, we are an unqualified team with an even more unqualified vehicle driving across a third of the planet. What could go wrong? Well, in the words of the event’s co-founder, the so-called Mr. Tom: “if nothing goes wrong then something has gone very wrong.”

Mongol rallySo why attempt such an absurd journey? Charity, of course! Assuming we are fortunate enough to make it to Ulaan Baatar, the finish line in Mongolia, our vehicle is sold at auction and the proceeds donated to the Lotus Children’s Centre, which does great work for children and families in Mongolia.

Now for the best part: we also get to raise money for a charity of our choice as part of this venture, and Hands On Nashville was an easy choice. The Mongol Rally is, above all, about the human interaction along the way and there is no doubt Hands On Nashville well represents the value and power of such interaction here at home.

Whether it is something like coordinating the volunteer response to the May 2010 flood or connecting volunteers to more than 300 service opportunities each month, Hands On Nashville serves an indispensible role for our community by mobilizing and organizing Nashville’s greatest asset, its people. What I love about raising funds for Hands On Nashville is that it means supporting not only our community, but also its people and all the initiatives across the city that Hands On Nashville volunteers make possible. It is truly a unique and invaluable organization and we are proud to do whatever we can to help its mission.

Ryan and Drew are about to embark on a huge adventure, with a simple request to raise money for Hands On Nashville, the charity of their choice.

For information on the rally, our team, our route, or our charities, check out our website at www.gigglegang.org. We will accept donations, advice, concern, and emotional support, particularly in regard to our vehicle. (Help us raise money for Hands On Nashville here.) We will be updating as much as we can along the way and plan to record the entire 10,000 miles on HD video via a camera externally mounted on our vehicle (surely it will hold for the whole trip). I hope you will share in this journey with us.

A special thanks to Drew and Ryan of the Giggle Team (and good luck, guys!) and other enthusiastic HON volunteers who use Crowdrise to raise awareness and financial support for Hands On Nashville with their creative projects and adventures. Crowdrise is really easy to use, and anything goes from international auto-treks to beard-shaving and most importantly, all the funds support Hands On Nashville. If you want to share your love of HON without leaving your computer, be a Tree Giver and sponsor a Tree at the Hands On Nashville Urban Farm. Register here, tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter, and watch your tree grow!

Volunteer Leader Spotlight: Megan Zarling

Megan Zarling

“I may not change someone’s entire life, but I can be the change for that moment or day,” says 33-year-old Megan Zarling as she reflects on her new role as Volunteer Leader with Hands On Nashville.

This sense of purpose and mission wasn’t always so apparent, though. After working in the music business for 10 years, Megan found that she wasn’t quite as fulfilled by her work as she used to be. She was raised to believe that it’s important to “put others first,” yet she saw herself growing more and more distant from that philosophy. And trying new sushi restaurants with her husband wasn’t enough to tame the adventurer inside.

In May 2010, Megan found herself in her first volunteer experience when Nashville was hit by the flood. The volunteer relief efforts reinvigorated her spirit of community and motivated her to give back. “I could not believe the amount of work HON [volunteers] were able to take on. The results [of flood relief efforts] were mind boggling to me.” In June 2011, Megan decided to dive headfirst into the nonprofit world and make volunteering a more consistent centerpiece of her life.

After trying a few different volunteer opportunities, she found her fit at Nashville Cares where she leads volunteers making care packages for HIV/AIDS affected families. “Before we start, the wall is lined with empty shelves. By the time we leave, those shelves are packed with food bags,” she says. “It’s an amazing feeling to know the food bags we put together will feed Cares’ clients for the next several weeks.”

This busy wife, mother-to-be, workout enthusiast and dog-lover encourages anyone who will listen to integrate service into their lifestyle, too. “It only takes a little time and an open mind to volunteer. There is literally something for everyone. The best part about volunteering is at the end knowing you did something for someone else.  The feeling of being selfless for a brief period of time is priceless.”

Making CARES Packages occurs every Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m.  If you want to participate, click here to sign up for this project.  HON’s Volunteer Leaders and volunteers are an integral part of Hands On Nashville’s mission to impact community needs through volunteerism.  Thank you, Megan, for your leadership and volunteerism!