Tag Archives: long-term volunteers

Resolve to Serve Stories: NECAT

Rhoda Scherer remembers when she first stepped into the studios of Nashville Education, Community, and Arts Television (NECAT) five years ago.

“I had no clue about television,” Scherer says. She’d been invited to visit the studio by a producer she’d met while volunteering at her niece and nephew’s school yard sale.

“I came to NECAT, I sat in on one of her productions, and I just fell in love with the studio.”

Scherer — who now produces a show called “Psychology Matters” — learned how to run the cameras, lights, and control room through NECAT’s training program.

“You learn in the classes exactly how to use everything,” Scherer says. “They make it so easy to learn.”

That’s music to the ears of former NECAT CEO Trish Crist, who adds that the technology of a TV studio is not as complicated as you might think.

“The skills are mastered pretty quickly,” she said. “Then you get to use them as part of a team to help someone else bring his vision to life and express himself on television.” Crew volunteers earn credit hours they can apply toward advanced production classes, where they can learn green screen effects and specialized camera work.

Super Intern Jay Witt
Jay Witt

NECAT’s channels currently broadcast more than 400 shows to 19 Middle Tennessee counties. Because programming is produced by community members for community members, diverse viewpoints and topics can get air time.

As Scherer, who has a psychology degree, gained experience in the studio, she knew she wanted to transition to producing her own show. She created “Psychology Matters” to focus on mental-health awareness. Her show features experts who answer questions that, often, Scherer crowdsources from her show’s Facebook audience.

For Jay Witt, another NECAT volunteer, helping others create TV shows is a powerful way to facilitate creative expression. Witt came to the studio in 2017 to attend Spring Break TV Camp. Like Scherer, he had little knowledge of TV production. Now, he manages the network’s Super Crew — which is responsible for all crew positions for the Our Nashville series, where each episode features a different nonprofit.

Witt, who’s now considering a career in film, has some advice for anyone interested in volunteering at NECAT, but who might be intimidated by what seems like a lot of technical hurdles: “Don’t be nervous at all. Even if it’s something you don’t end up loving as a future career, it’s still a great experience.”

NECAT Sports TV Camp
NECAT Sports TV Camp participants

Getting Started With NECAT

Want to dip your toes in the TV-production waters? NECAT offers a free two-night TV production class, where you will learn all the technical elements of working in a TV studio —  camera operation, video switching, audio engineering, conducting interviews, lighting design and teleprompter control.

From there, you can choose one of two pathways — for Producers or Technicians.

Technician Pathway — allows you to crew on any NECAT-produced show
$40 annual fee

Producer Pathway — allows you to book the studio and produce your own NECAT show
$80 annual fee 
• Once you’ve completed the aforementioned free production class, those who choose the Producer Pathway must take a two-night TV Pre-Production class (for a $50 one-time fee), which teaches how to organize and plan a show for success.

Super Crew with HON Our Nashville shoot
NECAT’s Super Crew (plus some HONies)

Interested in volunteering with NECAT? Check out their available opportunities here, or sign up for training courses here

Photos courtesy of NECAT.

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Resolve to Serve Stories: Hope Lodge

Tangerine Zielinski is dressed in pink — bright pink. 

Bright pink wide-brimmed hat with lace. Bright pink glasses with pink lenses. Bright pink patterned tunic. She stands in dazzling contrast to the drizzly, gray October day outside. 

“By dressing up, it seems to brighten up people’s days one way or another somehow,” she says. 

Zielinski is a 14-year volunteer with the American Cancer Society’s Nashville Hope Lodge. The Hope Lodge, located just outside downtown, provides a home away from home for cancer patients and their caregivers while they are in town receiving treatment. The Hope Lodge provides lodging, transportation, and activities for its guests free of charge. Volunteer groups provide meals throughout the month. 

Zielinski got started as a volunteer at the Hope Lodge when the facility opened in 2004. She says her own battle with lymphoma of the intestines in 2001 led her to want to volunteer with cancer patients.  

“Cancer … awakened me to the value of life,” she says. “Having been through cancer, I know how rough it can be. I know what it can do to you and your body. I know some of the emotional sides to it.” 

Zielinski says it’s important to make guests feel as relaxed as possible while they’re staying at the Hope Lodge. As a shuttle driver, she takes guests to and from appointments at hospitals, treatment centers, and imaging centers. When there’s time, she says, she will take them to the grocery store. 

When a guest gets into her shuttle, Zielinski will often ask what kind of music they’d like to hear. She keeps nearly 3,000 songs on her phone. 

“To get their minds off of cancer for but even a few minutes is, for me, very gratifying,” she says. “It makes my heart sing when I hear them hum in the backseat or sing along with a song.” 

Michele Ryan, senior manager of the Hope Lodge, says that volunteer shuttle drivers are a crucial part of making a Hope Lodge guest’s stay more comfortable, as many of them come from out of town and are unfamiliar with how to get around Nashville. 

“After a long day of treatment,” Ryan says, “no one wants to tackle traffic. They just want a comfortable and safe ride back.” 

Zielinski says that throughout her 14 years as a Hope Lodge volunteer, what has really sustained her is knowing that she’s having an impact in the lives of people going through the most difficult challenge of their lives. 

“Just to see the gratefulness that comes from the guests that come through the Hope Lodge is what really keeps me coming back,” she says.   

The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge program mission is to provide a free home away from home for cancer patients and their caregivers. Browse all volunteer opportunities with the Hope Lodge here 

hope lodge volunteers
photos provided by Hope Lodge