“If it wasn’t for Hope Lodge, I would have slept in my car at Wal-Mart.” Samuel, a guest of Hope Lodge, is one of many for whom this has been a place of refuge and hope during a very difficult time.
The mission of the American Cancer Society (ACS) is to eliminate cancer as a major public health problem through prevention, saving lives, and easing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy, and service. The Hope Lodge is a service of ACS, providing lodging at no cost to cancer patients and their families who come into Nashville for treatment. Each year, Hope Lodge serves nearly 1,800 people and gives 23,000 free nights of lodging annually.
One of the easiest ways to lift the spirits of someone suffering from cancer is by offering
a home-cooked meal. Several times a month, Hands On Nashville volunteers put together a delicious dinner menu for Hope Lodge guests.
“I really enjoyed meeting and talking to the residents at Hope Lodge,” says one recent volunteer. “They brightened my day and I hope I did the same for them. I also enjoyed meeting the other volunteers.” > Learn more and sign up here.
Not into dinner, but love the idea of bringing light into someone’s world who is dealing with illness? Consider game night, where you can play a simple game of bingo with the guests and provide a welcome break from stress. > Learn more and sign up here.
Or give just a few hours a month driving cancer patients to their life-saving treatment as a Road to Recovery driver. Anyone who has a driver’s license, a safe driving record, personal auto insurance, owns or has access to a car, and can spare as little as one morning or afternoon a month is perfect for this volunteer opportunity. > Learn more and sign up here.
If you’re interested in raising awareness or funds to support the work of American Cancer Society, check out Relay for Life or consider becoming an event committee member. > Learn more and sign up here.
It’s one thing to know how to play ball, but to play without using your vision is an extra challenge most people don’t experience. Volunteer Adam Jones takes pleasure in putting on goggles covered in duct tape and playing goalball with Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes (TNABA). It forces him to get outside of his comfort zone and use his other senses to make his way around the court. And, he feels good about helping the athletes prepare for their next tournament.
Adam moved to Nashville in 2009, looking for ways he could get engaged with the Nashville community. He found Hands On Nashville’s website and, after trying a few different volunteer options, found himself frequenting the TNABA court. By 2011, he was leading these volunteer opportunities as a HON Volunteer Leader, making a huge difference in the lives of these athletes. Adam comments that he loved this particular volunteer experience because “it combines my love of sports with my fervor for volunteering.”
While some people find it daunting to play a new game like goalball, Adam encourages more people to sign up and take a chance, especially if you love competition. Adam says, “New volunteers should not be afraid to dive in completely. Try to beat the TNABA athletes when you play them. They are most assuredly trying to beat you.”
The best part about volunteering is “helping to fill a need,” says Adam. He encourages everyone to find an organization or an activity they love and spend time volunteering there. He says, “Whether the need is great or small, local or international, being able to help by giving of myself is both rewarding and uplifting. I appreciate the work that you do at HON and look forward to volunteering with you more in the future.”
Hear the school bells ringing, yet? Kids are jumping out of their socks ready for summer. If you listen closely enough, you might even hear the sounds of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out for Summer” coming from your neighbor’s garage. And then, listen even closer. Wait a minute, that kid who just sang Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over” is the kid who attended Youth Empowerment through Arts & Humanities, Inc. (YEAH!)’s summer camp last year.
With a strong belief that artistic collaboration, expression, and performance empower youth to become creative, productive, and confident members of our community, YEAH! has stepped forward to offer music-focused opportunities for young people. YEAH! is a nonprofit that builds a creative community by providing experiences in the arts for young people ages 10 through 17. While being a part of a band is one component of its offerings, YEAH! provides opportunities for young people to experience ALL areas of the arts, including dance and visual arts.
YEAH! volunteers are a critical component of the organization’s success. And who wouldn’t want to volunteer? From helping manage “The Band” to being a “roadie,” YEAH! has the perfect fit for your talents THIS summer at Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp July 23-28,2012. The most exciting part of camp week is the opportunity for campers to form their own band and collaborate on a song to perform during a showcase at the end of the week. With the support of dozens of amazing volunteers and local sponsors, Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp and Tennessee Teen Rock Camp continue to develop new ways for campers to develop self confidence along with musical skills. “After attending the 3rd annual SGRRC Showcase, I was very impressed,” says Kelli Morris, the parent of an SGRRC camper and YEAH! volunteer. “In addition to signing my daughter up as a camper, I volunteered, too, because I thought what they were doing for and with young girls was incredible.”
If we haven’t convinced you, take a look at this incredible video:
Today, the Nashville Fire Department held their annual Commendation Ceremony. At the event, Mayor Karl Dean and Interim Director Billy Lynch recognized 77 organizations, citizens, fire fighters, fire officers, and paramedics for their everyday service that betters our neighborhoods.
Hands On Nashville and its Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service volunteers were among those who were recognized with an “Organization Appreciation Award.” Between January 14 and 16, 2012, more than 750 volunteers completed 28 painting projects held in 12 fire stations across the city. As part of these projects, volunteers directly interacted with Nashville Fire Department staff, receiving fire safety instructions and witnessing firsthand the remarkable work fire fighters, fire officers, and paramedics do to protect and serve our community every day.
Hands On Nashville volunteers often state that by serving, “they get more than they give.” That sentiment was repetitively echoed in MLK Day volunteers’ testimonials, including this one:
“I enjoyed being there, meeting new people, and getting to be a part of something important. I feel like the firemen appreciated it [our painting]. Being able to give back to them with my service is the closest way that I can say ‘thank you’ for what they do.”
‘Thank you’ to the Nashville Fire Department for opening its doors to Hands On Nashville volunteers and to the event’s presenting sponsor, Jackson. We appreciated the opportunities to apply fresh coats of Glidden Professional Paint in 12 deserving fire stations and to show our community’s appreciation for your life- and property-saving work. You are our heroes.
In closing, please know how honored Hands On Nashville and its volunteers are to receive a Nashville Fire Department “Organization Appreciation Award.” We’re humbled to be among this grouping of 77 remarkable award recipients – many of whom put themselves in harm’s way to protect and serve Nashville.
Young people are a big part of the volunteer movement here in Nashville. They bring a fresh perspective, endless energy, and a “why not?” attitude to many of Middle Tennessee’s most pressing issues. (To see some of this energy in action, take a look at these photos of this week’s Hands On Spring Break.)
In the spirit of this month’s Global Youth Service Day Presented by Starbucks, when Nashville youth will join millions of other teens around the world in a day of powerful volunteerism, we bring to you April’s Volunteer Leader feature: Tiannan Zhou, a sophomore at Hume Fogg.
Ask her how she came to serve as the HON Volunteer Leader at Backfield in Motion’s Saturday school, and the answer is quite simple: curiosity. “I had never volunteered before, and I really wanted to try something new,” she says. Plus, she’d heard from friends who had volunteered before that it was fun, so she decided to jump in.
Each Saturday, you can find Tiannan and other teen volunteers working on math and reading with the inner-city boys served by Backfield in Motion. While Tiannan has helped the boys with multiplication and addition, she’s been surprised to find that she’s learned some good things from them, too. “Attitude is often the most important thing. A smiling face and readiness to learn is what matters the most,” she says.
The Nike Factory Store in Opry Mills was one of 2,773 Nashville businesses that sustained flood damage in May 2010. And like many, many Nashville individuals and businesses hit by losses, the store’s owners and employees responded with giving instead of placing themselves first. Now, almost two years later, Nike celebrates a grand re-opening with memories of how Nike greatly re-bounded from the flood.
Store manager Beth Sesler recalls how volunteers just started contributing to what turned out to be one of Nashville’s biggest clothing giveaways.
“It was several days before we could even get access to the store. We had to wait for water to recede,” she said. “We went in, and the first thing I remember is the emotion of knowing how much labor went into putting the store together. And, now, it seemed like it was all in vain.”
Beth said there had been 2 feet of water in the store, that merchandise above that level had absorbed water, “and even the paper in the shirts was wet.”
“The easiest thing we could have done, and the quickest thing as far as remediation for the space was concerned, would have been to destroy all of the merchandise,” she added.
Doing what’s easy is not always what’s right. Beth saw an opportunity. Their destiny became the organization of a community-wide volunteer project that placed the store’s 40,000 pieces of merchandise in the hands of flood-impacted families served by Metro Schools and local charities.
“We all knew that it had to go to the flood victims. And we had to do what we could for the community,” she recalled.
The process of preparing the Nike Factory Store’s clothing for donation had begun.
Beth’s team took merchandise from their store. Under a circus tent set up in the Opry Mills’ parking lot, they removed clothing tags, sorted the items by size, bagged the merchandise and placed it in eight portable storage units.
Then, the soiled product needed to be laundered. Beth sought cost estimates, and she connected with UniFirst, a uniform and work wear provider. To her delight, they stepped up to handle this enormous laundry project.
UniFirst’s general manager Chris Neeley said, “We were particularly eager to contribute to the volunteer efforts launched to help those who suddenly found themselves with nothing.”
With the PODs full of clean clothing, the massive re-sorting and arranging effort began. Beth recalls, “When you’re dealing with 40,000 units, that’s a huge chore. That’s T-shirts, pants and jackets. We also had socks, which probably was the biggest challenge for my team. When you talk about mating 8,000 units of socks, you can imagine. I mean, you do it at home, and there’s always that missing sock. I think out of 8,000 units, we had three missing socks. So we did pretty well on that.”
Working in concert with Hands On Nashville and Metro Nashville Public Schools, a giant clothing giveaway event was planned for McGavock Elementary School. Metro Nashville Public Schools’ students, faculty and their families, along with other flood-impacted households served by Catholic Charities of Tennessee, St. Paul A.M.E. Church and Bellevue Church of Christ were invited to attend.
On May 28, about 2,000 people entered McGavock Elementary School’s gym to take advantage of this generous offer, receiving 10 articles of clothing and six pairs of socks per member of each household.
A 150-member volunteer team was there to support Nike’s vision and ensure a special shopping experience – free of charge – that was equivalent to shopping at a Nike store.
“We served as personal shoppers, and each flood victim or family that came in that day had a personal shopper help find their products,” Beth said. “We were able to match items for them to put an outfit together, and I think that’s what made the event very special.”
Beth, who has done other volunteer work ever since she was a child, said the delighted reaction from children that day is something she will remember.
Last night was the Nike grand re-opening. Beth, Mayor Karl Dean, Brian Williams and many others told stories and reminisced on their teamwork during the 2010 Nashville flood. It was a wonderful celebration filled with pride and accomplishment. Their story will continue to be shared and remembered as one of the wonderful response efforts from the 2010 Nashville Flood. Thank you, Nike!
By Erika Burnett, Hands On Nashville’s Service Learning Manager at TSU —
I chose to attend Tennessee State University because of its rich legacy as a Historically Black College and University. TSU, like most HBCUs, is located in the heart of the inner city. Historically, Black colleges were founded in areas inhabited primarily by minority populations, and those who were most vulnerable and lacking resources. For their local communities, these universities served as an academic resource, a place of employment, medical, and legal assistance, and a pillar of pride. HBCUs were established to have a direct impact on their communities through service!
The words “Enter to learn, go forth to serve” are inscribed on the front of the building where I spent the majority of my time during my matriculation. Of course I learned that hard work and academic rigor has its rewards. But the most meaningful lessons were those not found in my text books: the essence of leadership is servitude; community is more than a geographical proximity; service has no end, there is always more to do, more to give, more to strive to change. To find ourselves we must first lose ourselves in worthy causes. I found myself and my passion through service.
My journey has now come full circle as I currently serve as the Service Learning Manager at TSU. I recently led a volunteer project at Radnor Lake with a group of students. The weather was cool, the sky was cloudy, and it was a Friday afternoon! The odds were NOT in our favor. Yet, it was a most fulfilling experience to watch 15 young adults (many of whom had never been exposed to this type of environment) excited as they learned why invasive plants are harmful and their eagerness to remove them! One student shared her thoughts: “the overall experience was great and I walked away knowing I made an improvement, served the community, and learned why and how my help was appreciated.”
Whether it’s walking to Samaritan Ministries to serve lunch, hosting an HIV awareness campaign, or feeding the stray dogs that roam around campus, TSU students are being the change they want to see in their local Nashville community and in the world. As my alma mater celebrates its Centennial year, I am grateful to serve as a bridge connecting thinking to service. I am encouraged, that without publicity or notoriety, without titles or accolades, Tennessee State University continues to cultivate a spirit of leadership as students enter to learn, and go forth to serve.
As Service Learning Manager at Tennessee State University, Erika Burnett oversees the collaboration between Hands On Nashville and TSU to engage university students in meaningful volunteer service throughout the Nashville community. Previously, Erika worked at the Oasis Center as a Youth Engagement Program Coordinator. Prior to Oasis Center, she worked as the Community Outreach Coordinator for the YWCA of Middle Tennessee. A graduate of Vanderbilt and TSU, Erika loves to dance and is the co-founder of a ministry-based dance company. She re-joined Hands On Nashville’s staff in September 2011 after completing her AmeriCorps term at HON in 2007. Learn more about Hands On Nashville’s collaboration with TSU or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This sentiment from one of the greatest 60’s pop songs, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) is just as relevant today at Hands On Nashville as it was 40 years ago. We often get calls the day after you volunteer, wondering why your hours aren’t posted yet. We applaud your enthusiasm! But we want to take a moment to explain the process and encourage you to slow down (and make the morning last). The reason your hours aren’t up yet is simple: Hands On Nashville projects are managed by people! HON Volunteer Leaders – those dedicated souls who commit to leading a volunteer project on a regular basis – lead the projects, and these same people are responsible for updating volunteer hours. So at the end of the day, when the food is sorted, the garden has been weeded and another great meal has been served, sit back. Relax. Your Volunteer Leader is probably doing the same thing. Take a beat to reflect on what you accomplished, and please wait two weeks for your hours to be updated. Thank you for your volunteerism!
Let’s face it, life gets busy. For Mario LaGrone though, that’s no excuse. Preparing for medical school, working, and raising a daughter keep his schedule jam-packed, but he still manages to find time to give back to our community and make good friends while he’s at it. This Hands On Nashville Volunteer Leader of three years consistently inspires others with his upbeat attitude and spunky spirit.
The best part about Mario is his passion to assist those in need. It’s hard to be around him and not feel inspired by his positive energy. Last month during MLK Day weekend, Mario served as Volunteer Leader for a painting project at the Haywood Lane fire station. When his group of volunteers finished their assigned work early, he was surprised when they didn’t jump on the opportunity to leave and go enjoy the beautiful day. In unity, the group told him, “we will leave when you leave.” Mario says, “I could not believe… a group of volunteers I’d only known for two hours felt so committed to me, Hands On Nashville, and the project.” This group wanted to make a difference and they stayed the entire shift to complete other improvement work. “This was one of my proudest moments,” Mario says. “I had the best team of volunteers and, more importantly, friends.”
Mario has always been interested in being a part of the community, but he never anticipated having so many new relationships in his life. “When I volunteer, I feel that I am helping out my own family. … I am able to interact and meet and thank each one of my volunteers,” he says. And, he gets to do what he loves to do: “share many smiles along the way.” Mario encourages anyone who is looking to give back to “get up and get involved in helping your community. There is always a need for great volunteers who want to make a difference.”
Mario LaGrone is a special events Volunteer Leader for HON, and has led Hands On Nashville Day and MLK Day teams in a variety of service projects over the years. Watch out, though! Word on the street is that Mario will soon be making more frequent appearances as a Volunteer Leader for regular Opportunity Calendar projects.
“Girl, you could light up the world with that smile. You always smile like that?” A homeless guest asked me.
“I can’t help it,” I said. “Y’all make me laugh.”
I started volunteering for Room In The Inn’s winter shelter program a few months ago when, on a chilly November evening, I had met some friends for dinner at a local restaurant. As we stood in the parking lot, shivering and saying our goodbyes, one friend commented, “I feel so bad for the people with no place to stay tonight.”
That statement stayed with me during my drive home. I thought about Nashville’s homeless population and the dropping temperature. I thought about being lucky enough to go home to a heater and a comfortable bed and wanting to help those who couldn’t. I thought about Hands On Nashville’s motto: Be the Change. Then, I thought about the 100+ people who would be sheltered that night thanks to Room In The Inn and their partner congregations. The next day, I signed up to attend a volunteer orientation at Room In The Inn.
The atmosphere there is one of acceptance and friendship, and I look forward to volunteering with them on Tuesday evenings. My usual assignment as a runner involves ensuring registered guests are transported to the correct congregation. As another volunteer calls a list of names over the loudspeaker, I chat with guests as they assemble near the front entrance. More often than not, they spend this time entertaining me with jokes and stories, which has quickly become my favorite part of the evening.
Last Tuesday, I called roll after I escorted a small group onto a church shuttle. I called the first name, and he responded, “Here.”
I called the second name.
“Over here,” he said.
Then, I called the third name.
“God bless you, Caroline.”
I called the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh names, and they all answered with “Bless you, Caroline.”
When I called the final name, he smiled and said, “You have a blessed evening, young lady.”
I don’t know if I will ever be able to repay what they have given me, but I will continue to try.
Browse volunteer opportunities with Room In The Inn hereor visit their website, for even more ways to get involved.
Caroline Foley is a community volunteer and Program Manager at Hands On Nashville. A former Peace Corps Volunteer who served for 27 months in Romania, Caroline loves reading and spending time outdoors.