Tag Archives: Homeless

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: 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.

Volunteer Leader Spotlight: Kymberly Anderson

This mother, entrepreneur, native Nashvillian, and world traveler has a big place in her heart for volunteerism and Music City.

“I was married in Japan and have literally been around the world with my six boys 25 times,” says Kymberly Anderson. She’s been on many worldly adventures, but has always found her way back to Nashville and the people here who make it a wonderful place to live. “[Volunteerism and] Hands On Nashville have made such a great impact on me and my city!” she exclaims. “I was born and raised here. I lived and traveled all over the world, but always return to Nashville!”

While not on the move, Kymberly has been involved with HON since the mid-1990s when she served as a member of Hands On Nashville’s board of directors and in various volunteer roles. When the 2010 flood hit Nashville, Kym stepped up her commitment in a big way and served as a Project Coordinator helping with flood cleanup on Blue Hole Road for three weeks.

“After [helping with] the flood, I knew I had to get back full time with HON and find my groove.” She found a true sweet spot leading volunteers to serve hot meals to Nashville’s homeless and working poor through Catholic Charities’ program Loaves and Fishes, and she’s been doing it for the past two years. “Loaves & Fishes is one of the most fulfilling projects that HON is involved with. I have [led volunteer projects many times] over the years, and I’ve found such a deep connection at Loaves & Fishes.” Her favorite part is the interaction. “I love the stories and seeing everyone each and every month,” she comments. “We are surrounded by so many grateful people.”

If you are trying out a new service opportunity like Loaves & Fishes, Kymberly encourages you to go with the flow. “Even though your project may not run as smoothly as you anticipate, the end result is phenomenal to others. And, wear comfortable shoes!”

“With HON, we can and do make huge differences within our community. HON is so well run, the projects give you the freedom to express your individualism, and the end results actually change someone’s life besides your own,” she says. “I am very proud to be involved with HON, and will continue to be a Volunteer Leader for the next 20 years!”

Loaves and Fishes occurs on the 4th Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 1 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, Kym, for your leadership and volunteerism.

Nonprofit Partner Spotlight: The Contributor

“The Contributor has taken us out of poverty and we are now able to enjoy life.  Instead of being apart from society, we are a part of society, and it feels wonderful.” – A mother and daughter vendor team

The Contributor is so much more than a newspaper.

Copies of The Contributor ready for distribution at the newspaper release meeting! (Volunteers are needed to help with these twice monthly events!)

Since 2007, Nashville’s street newspaper has worked to restore dignity and hope to those experiencing homelessness and poverty. It creates a flexible source of income for homeless and formerly homeless individuals, sheds light on these issues in Nashville through its editorial content, and breaks down barriers of discrimination and judgment in our city. (Check out these profiles of Contributor vendors.)

“Amazing things happen when names are exchanged, eyes meet, hands shake – perceptions are altered and room for caring and community are created,” says Tasha French, executive director of The Contributor. “The Contributor hopes to continue breaking down barriers that further discrimination against those experiencing homelessness and poverty, and replacing them with an understanding of the human condition.”

Volunteers’ helping hands and willing smiles make a paper release meeting go smoothly.

What began as a simple idea more than five years ago has grown to become a life-changing opportunity for hundreds of homeless and formerly homeless individuals in Nashville. With the launch of the first issue of The Contributor in 2007, a handful of homeless and formerly homeless artists, writers, and outreach workers hoped the street newspaper would help a few folks struggling with poverty to earn some income. More than five years later, the paper has grown to be the highest-circulating street newspaper of its kind in North America at 100,000 copies per month, with about 400 active vendors each month, garnering national attention.

“We used to say during vendor training that this was not a way off the streets,” says French. “We have long stopped saying that because Nashville has graciously blessed this project.”

Vendors meet inside Downtown Presbyterian Church for a newspaper release meeting.

More than 35 percent of vendors who sell The Contributor secure housing via their income from sales of the newspaper. And they are building relationships with people all over Nashville, bridging the gap of division and misunderstanding. “I LOVE Mr. James,” one customer says of a vendor. “He just makes my day. I can come into work and not be having a good day, and when I pass by him on a corner he has a smile on his face and always gives me a huge smile and a wave. He is awesome… I think this man is loved by many and he doesn’t realize it.”

While The Contributor has experienced tremendous growth since its inception, it is still the little nonprofit that could. Run with a very small staff, the nonprofit heavily relies on volunteers to do everything from making deliveries and helping run the newspaper release vendor meeting, to day-to-day office operations. Two to four volunteers are needed on any given day.

A volunteer helps with stacking papers – such an important job!

What can you do to help support the uplifting work of this amazing organization?

> Volunteer for paper release meetings. Volunteers are needed to assist with unloading the paper bundles from the truck, stacking the papers inside the church, setting up for the meeting, and helping breakdown tables after the meeting. Releases happen on the second and last Wednesday of each month.

> Check out this opportunity to help with The Contributor street team TOMORROW (8/22).

> Complete this volunteer application if interested in ongoing volunteer opportunities.

> Learn more about The Contributor. 

Give a Smile, Get a Blessing: Volunteering at Room In The Inn

Guest post by Caroline Foley

“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.”

A volunteer registers a guest for the Winter Shelter Program.
A volunteer registers a guest for the Winter Shelter Program.

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.

Church shuttles lined up to receive guests at Room in the Inn.
Church shuttles lined up to receive guests at Room in the Inn.

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 here or visit their website, for even more ways to get involved.

CarolineCaroline 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. 



Agency Partner Spotlight: The Salvation Army of Nashville

The Salvation Army, a faith-based nonprofit serving Nashville since 1890, extends a resourceful hand of assistance to families in greatest need, so that they may lift themselves from crisis to stability and independence.  Serving individuals and families in Middle Tennessee, the Salvation Army offers a variety of programs that include: transitional housing for families and single women, childcare, life skills classes, after school and summer care for children, Christmas assistance through the Angel Tree program, homeless outreach, emergency services, disaster assistance and spiritual guidance.

The Salvation Army truly values volunteers who enable it to function effectively and efficiently in everything it does: feeding the homeless a hot meal, tutoring students, attending to disasters, or staffing an Angel Tree booth during Christmas.  Below are some of these opportunities:
Angel Tree Volunteers – Angel Tree volunteers take client applications, staff Angel Tree booths in the malls, sort gifts, and distribute them to families before Christmas.
Red Kettle Bell Ringing – The Red Kettles will go out on November 11th and will stay out until December 24th.  This annual fundraiser supports Salvation Army programs and services year-round.
Homeless Outreach – Two programs are offered weekly: Breakfast Brigade on Main Street and Friday Night feeding under the Jefferson Street Bridge.  Anyone who would like to join is welcome.  If you would like to bring something with you to hand out, bottled water, fresh fruit, milk, snacks, etc. are always greatly welcomed by those served.
Red Shield Kids Club Tutors and Mentors– The Kid’s Club after school program at the Magness-Potter Community Center includes homework help, tutoring, arts and crafts, sports, music, and all kinds of other recreation activities. Volunteers are needed to provide tutoring and mentoring to children ages 6-14.
GED Tutors– If you have a few hours in the evening and would be interested in helping someone turn their life around, consider tutoring in the GED program. Classes are Tuesday and Thursday from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.
Office Assistant– A volunteer is needed to answer phones and help with office work at the Magness-Potter Community Center.  Times are available through the week, preferably 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Internship Programs – Several opportunities exist for students to gain experience in our intern program.  Call for details.

To see all of HON’s volunteering opportunities with the Salvation Army, please click here.   For information on other volunteer projects, please visit the Salvation Army’s website at www.salarmy-nashville.org, or contact Misty Ratcliff, Director of Volunteers, at 242-0411 (office) or 416-3175 (cell) or email Misty_Ratcliff@uss.salvationarmy.org.

The Salvation Army of Rutherford County has many similar volunteer opportunities, so if you are looking to help out with the Angel Tree or Red Kettle Bell Ringing in the Murfreesboro area, please click here.