Tag Archives: mentorship

Resolve to Serve Stories: Project Return

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%.

Project Return provides services and connects people with resources needed to return successfully to work and community after incarceration. Browse all volunteer opportunities with Project Return here.

Photos courtesy of Project Return.

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Resolve to Serve Stories: Begin Anew of Middle Tennessee

Only one in 300 children living in a low-income neighborhood owns an age-appropriate book. One.

While completing her undergraduate studies at Belmont, Casey Enright was moved by this statistic – and in response, she founded The Word Wagon, a nonprofit that promotes childhood literacy by providing reading opportunities and reading materials for children who lack access to books. To reach its target audience, The Word Wagon partners with Begin Anew, which serves men and women in Middle Tennessee living in poverty.

With a mobile library in tow, Casey reads to all of the  children while their parents attend Begin Anew’s adult education classes. The Word Wagon enhances Begin Anew’s Program by allowing each child to take home a bundle of books to read with his or her parents, allowing Begin Anew’s ESL students to bond with their children as they continue to learn the English language and practice reading at home.

As The Word Wagon and Begin Anew work together, both organizations find new ways to fulfill their missions through partnership. In October, at The Church at Woodbine’s Fall Fiesta, supported by Begin Anew, Casey set up the Word Wagon on a remarkably cold day. Her enthusiasm, despite the weather, engaged several new families in the community who came to the event, establishing meaningful community relationships while promoting literacy. Said Begin Anew Program Director Charlotte Hanson, “Casey’s work has a great impact on building connections between our ministry and the neighborhood.”

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Casey Enright, Founder and Executive Director of The Word Wagon

“Taking a leap of faith to launch The Word Wagon was the scariest “yes,” but the best “yes” I could have ever said!” said Casey. We couldn’t agree more – thank you for your service, Casey!

Begin Anew empowers individuals to overcome the obstacles caused by poverty by providing education, mentoring, and resources. The faith-based educational program and missional, life-changing community is composed of more than 250 champions (volunteers) and a ministry staff. Each volunteer dedicates their time and energy to offer mercy and care. Browse all volunteer opportunities with Begin Anew here.

Photos courtesy of The Word Wagon.

Resolve to Serve Stories: YMCA of Middle Tennessee

“Many mentors show up wanting to make an impact on a child’s life,” said Larry, a volunteer for YMCA of Middle Tennessee’s Reach and Rise Program. “My role is to share positive encouragement as a mentee finds his own direction.”

During most of his professional career, Larry called the shots. After retiring from nearly 20 years in an executive position, he became a volunteer youth mentor in the YMCA of Middle Tennessee’s Reach and Rise Program. Larry quickly took a backseat approach, giving his mentee the space to articulate needs and drive their connection.

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Larry, mentor at YMCA’s Reach & Rise Program 

Cassanora Lampley, Reach and Rise Program Director at the YMCA, said this dynamic is common among mentor-mentee relationships. “Mentors enter the program expecting that youth will benefit from their influence, but our adult participants truly learn and grow,” she said. Mentors like Larry meet with their mentees once per week for a year, with additional activities taking place in group settings. Together, the pairs work to progress toward mentees’ physical, academic, emotional, and/or spiritual goals.

In one partnership, Larry’s mentee entered the program when his mother hoped to introduce positive male role models into his life. Their age difference was significant – Larry in his 60s, his mentee in his teens – but the two recognized common interests, such as a love of playing musical instruments, which began to set the tone for their outings.

Larry represents a portion of the Reach and Rise Program’s core volunteers: retired professionals who seek meaningful ways to spend their time. Young professionals looking to give back are also centric to the program.

Volunteering for Reach and Rise is a long-term engagement, and approximately 80 percent of participants connect to the opportunity through Hands On Nashville. “If it weren’t for our partnership with HON, we likely wouldn’t have the consistent volunteer engagement that drives our work,” said Lampley. Due to such engagement, the program helps youth gain perspective and support for pressures and challenges in their lives, while providing motivation for mentees to reach their greatest potential.

The YMCA strives to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all. In that Christian principles are caring and inclusive, the Y respects various expressions of religion and serves people from all faith traditions and perspectives. Browse all volunteer opportunities with the YMCA.

Resolve to Serve Stories: Preston Taylor Ministries

Every day, Hands On Nashville’s community partners and volunteer community build stronger communities through service. HON celebrates these partners through Resolve to Serve Stories. We’re inspired by their work, their missions and their dedication – and invite you to get involved.

The night before Preston Taylor Ministries’ annual Nativity Store, staff members were putting in late hours to set up the space. Maggie Tucker, owner of the local children’s boutique Magpies, stopped by to drop off donations.

“She walked in and she could tell what was going on,” said Bethany Jones, Site Director Mt. Nebo and Volunteer Coordinator at Preston Taylor Ministries (PTM). “She took off her coat and asked: ‘What can I do?’”

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At its core, Preston Taylor Ministries focuses on building relationships. Through tutoring, mentoring and events, the agency helps empower children and youth. For example, PTM’s Nativity Store serves more than 300 children per year. Parents are invited to shop from donations of clothes, toys and games, while children play with games and crafts in the space. Volunteers help engage children, maintain the store and wrap gifts.

The day before the Nativity Store, PTM hosted a separate holiday shopping event and gift-wrapping party for 90 youth. Magpies served as a 2017 event sponsor, and Tucker arrived as staff worked to transition the space. “She stayed for several hours to help set up,” said Jones. “She had great ideas and was encouraging to be around. What more could you want, when you have several people inexperienced in retail, and someone who owns a retail store walks in?”

Following her involvement with the Nativity Store, Maggie Tucker became a long-term volunteer with PTM’s Lunchmate Mentoring program. As Jones shared, PTM offers volunteer opportunities to fit any schedule, but mentors tend to stay involved with the agency for longer periods of time.

“We have a lot of volunteers who might, for example, know how to play chess, and begin leading a chess club at our after-school program,” said Jones. “Through the Lunchmate program, we’ve had kids who begin in the second grade, then graduate to our middle school and high school programs, and remain in touch with their mentors.”

Whether she’s working on the Nativity Store or showing up each week as a Lunchmate Mentor, volunteers like Maggie help PTM fulfill its mission in the community. Thank you, PTM staff and volunteers, for all you do!

Preston Taylor Ministries (PTM) empowers children and youth to discover and live their God-inspired dreams, develop a love for learning, and build joy-filled friendships. Browse all opportunities to volunteer with PTM.

Nonprofit Partner Spotlight: Preston Taylor Ministries

Do you remember that slightly older person you looked up to as a child? Maybe it was a big sister, a next-door neighbor, or a teammate. You thought this person hung the moon, and you wanted to be just like her.

Mentor. Friend. Role model. Hero. Whatever you call this person, you know how much of a difference she made by showing you the ropes in your early years – some of the most important years of your life.

A high school student working with his mentee at Preston Taylor Ministries. There’s nothing like helping a child get to those “ah ha!” moments, and seeing their smile of accomplishment!

Preston Taylor Ministries (PTM) knows how essential positive role models are in the lives of children. That’s why the organization seeks to provide afterschool and mentoring programming for more than 150 students, ranging in age from kindergarteners to high school seniors. Through the valuable programming offered to students, PTM empowers them to overcome many of the challenges faced by the Preston Taylor community including drug use, gang involvement, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy, and crime.

Patrick, a rising 11th grade student at Big Picture High School, has been involved with PTM since 2005. “I used to be a mentee,” says Patrick. “I had a mentor and I looked up to him, so I can see how my mentee, Jerome, looks up to me.”

PTM is able to offer these rich life experiences to students like Patrick, Jerome, and so many other students because of the outpouring of volunteer support. Because of the organization’s emphasis on building “joy-filled friendships,” volunteers are crucial to PTM’s success. More than 200 volunteers each week give their time, energy, and resources to PTM and the children and teens it serves.

“I love the whole PTM atmosphere. …We’ve been living in the Preston Taylor community since 2005. [Each of my children have] been a member of the PTM program. I love it and they love it. My daughter who is 14 actually comes on Wednesdays now and reads to children there.” –LaVonda, a parent of four PTM students
But, more volunteers are needed. PTM has a waiting list of students at two sites. With more volunteers willing to get involved, PTM can engage even more students in its activities and programming. At PTM, it’s all about friendships, and through afterschool programming and mentorship opportunities, volunteers accomplish PTM’s mission by “empowering children to discover and live their God-inspired dreams.”

Here are ways to get involved with Preston Taylor Ministries today:

Volunteer Training – Wednesday, August 8, 4-6 p.m.
For all individuals interested in volunteering with PTM for the 2012-2013 school year.
> Sign up to participate in the training.

Afterschool Tutoring Program – Begins Monday, August 13 (Ongoing)
Loving staff and volunteers meet with children each day after school in small groups, focusing on math, reading, and homework. Volunteers are needed to facilitate the subject rotations, help with homework, and provide instruction.
> Volunteer to help a child with his homework!

Fun Friday – Begins Friday, August 17 (Ongoing)
Every Friday during the school year, more than 60 PTM children are exposed to a variety of volunteer-led enrichment opportunities including dance, sports, art, music, gardening, and more.
> Volunteer to help make Fun Friday even more fun.

For other opportunities with Preston Taylor Ministries, view a full list here, or contact Martha Willis, volunteer coordinator for PTM, at Martha@prestontaylorministries.org or (615) 569-7468. Learn more about PTM on the organization’s blog, or at www.ptmweb.ik.org. Check out this uplifting video of the good things happening at PTM!

Preston Taylor Ministries from David McKay on Vimeo.

To view a complete list of Hands On Nashville Nonprofit Partners, click here.