Tag Archives: Nashville Strong

It’s time to say goodbye to another Americorps cohort!

We are so proud of our 2020-2021 AmeriCorps cohort as they near the end of their term and begin their next adventure. This is a cohort that has problem solved like no other — they got out and met their communities, made all kinds of new friends, and have forever changed our organization for the better. The Hands On Nashville team and all our partnering host sites are so grateful for their hard work, amazing attitudes, and that they chose Nashville as their home for a year of service!  

The most rewarding part of my service year was how valued my team and supervisors made me feel. It allowed me to really flourish, both personally and professionally, and gave me the space to try new approaches to how things are done and see what worked and didn’t work to help make Nashville Diaper Connection a more effective non-profit.

— Heidi hayne, americorps volunteer and partner engagement leader at nashville diaper connection

While completing their term, AmeriCorps members said they discovered how to self motivate, their ability to take initiative, unknown writing skills, that they’re more adaptable than they thought, and mostly — that they get stuff done!

Reflecting on these members’ growth at the end of each is year is a rewarding moment, and while we’re sad to see them go, we’re so excited to see what else they achieve moving forward.

Americorps members receive their certificates of completion and thank you gifts at a closing reception in July.

Thank you to all our 2020-2021 host sites for taking such good care of our Americorps members!

Community Resource Center

Cumberland River Compact

The Family Center

Hands On Nashville

Harpeth Conservancy

Nashville Diaper Connection

Nashville Food Project

Nashville Tree Foundation

The Pencil Foundation

Shower The People

Turnip Green Creative Reuse

Workers’ Dignity — Dignidad Obrera

To learn more about the HON Americorps program, click here.

Thank you for loving Nashville.

Last Saturday we said there was a need and volunteers showed up. Because of you, many residents in South Nashville are a step closer to recovering from recent flooding that devastated so many neighborhoods. Thank you!

On April 3, 350 volunteers cleaned up at around 90 houses. They hauled supplies with their pickup trucks and helped other volunteers find parking and get checked in. They translated languages to help keep the communication flowing. They also handed out more than 400 boxes of food, 420 flood buckets, and 100 hygiene kits to families in need.

And thank you to the many partners that helped put the day of service together: the Nashville Office of Emergency Management, American Red Cross, Conexión Américas, WeGo, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, Community Resource Center, Nashville Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Metro Parks and Recreation, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands.

There’s still LOTS more work to be done in South Nashville, and we need your help. Find a project here:

11,689 vaccines in arms, all because of volunteers like you!

WOW. That’s about all we can say about the mass vaccination event on March 20. Hundreds of volunteers — including many medical professionals — helped vaccinate thousands at Nissan Stadium, Lee Chapel AME, and Music City Center on Saturday. It was an emotional day, but many volunteers said they would do it again in a heartbeat. In total, 11,689 people were vaccinated with the help of volunteers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Photographs by Madison Thorn, HON volunteer 

City of Nashville & Davidson County join nonprofits to provide response and recovery efforts for historic downtown area

December 31, 2020, Nashville, Tenn. – The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Office of Emergency Management, and Nashville/Davidson County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) are working together to provide immediate assistance to individuals affected by the tragedy on Friday, Dec. 25, in downtown Nashville.

With the city’s focus of quickly identifying businesses, employees of those affected businesses, and residents who lived in the damaged historic downtown structures, members of the VOAD have been identified based on their areas of expertise to assist in moving the recovery efforts downtown forward. This group of local nonprofits has been working closely since the incident to organize and mobilize resources and assistance by individuals and families affected.

Available resources include:

January 1st Food and Essentials Drive-Thru Event for Survivors

• 1 p.m., Community Resource Center, 218 Omohundro Place
The Community Resource Center, in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, will be providing essential kits for survivors that will include food, hygiene products and diapers for those in need. The food boxes and essential kits will be available to pick-up during a “Nashville Strong” drive-thru event on Friday, January 1, 2020 at 1:00 pm at the Community Resource Center, located at 218 Omohundro Place, Nashville, TN 37210.

Lutheran Disaster Response will also be on site for emotional and spiritual care providing purposeful listening to survivors overcoming challenges related to disaster recovery.

Additional Resources Available for Survivors

Nashville Strong Assistance Fund
Catholic Charities will provide assistance to those who live or work in the explosion perimeter area in the historic downtown area, through a specially funded program that will begin Monday, Jan. 4. An online application for assistance will be go live on Friday afternoon, Jan. 1.

The application can be accessed from the following web site: nashvillestrong2021.org. Those who are unable to access the online application can call (615) 352-8591.

hubNashville
For assistance from Metro Nashville Davidson County Government, affected individuals should visit hub.nashville.gov, use the hubNashville 311 app or call 311.

Food Assistance
Individuals in need of emergency food assistance can text ‘FEEDS’ to 797979 or
visit www.secondharvestmidtn.org/get-help to access Second Harvest’s Find Food tool to locate the nearest food distribution, including Emergency Food Box sites in Davidson County. For additional assistance, individuals can call 2-1-1.

• Cash Assistance
A limited supply of gift cards, provided by Salvation Army — Nashville Area Command, will be available for immediate cash assistance for those affected. Individuals can receive more information by texting the word ‘STRONG’ to 484848.

Housing and Immediate Needs
The American Red Cross of Tennessee is providing assistance for those displaced from their home, apartment or townhouse. Those needing assistance should contact the Red Cross at 800-RED-CROSS to help with their immediate needs, which may include food, shelter, clothing, health and mental health services, community referrals and recovery assistance.

• Assistance for Spanish Speakers
Spanish speakers affected can call Conexión Americas at (615) 270-9252 for assistance beginning on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.

Resource and Referral Line
Individuals in need of assistance can contact United Way of Greater Nashville’s 24-hour resource and referral line for help by dialing 211 or visiting 211.org. Note: To qualify for financial assistance, survivors will need to provide proof of employment or residency in the direct impacted area.

How Community Members Can Help

Donate

United Way of Greater Nashville is partnering with Mayor John Cooper’s office to accept gifts to its Restore the Dream Fund which will provide long-term disaster recovery support to nonprofits for the survivors. People who wish to donate may visit www.unitedwaygreaternashville.org or text RESTORE20 to 41444.

• The Salvation Army – Nashville Area Command believes “we are stronger together” and is assisting survivors with urgent needs of food, transportation, and healthcare through Kroger Gift Cards, UBER Rides and UBER Eats. Gifts can be made in support of this disaster response at www.salvationarmynashville.org.

• Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville provides a range of services that help clients through crises and toward self-sufficiency. Services include emergency financial assistance, counseling, job training, housing stability, hunger relief, and more. Gifts in support of their disaster relief efforts can be made at www.cctenn.org.

• The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s Nashville Neighbors Fund, established in partnership with WTVF-NewsChannel5, is accepting gifts to provide services to both the immediate and long-term needs of survivors affected by the Christmas Day tragedy.

Community Resource Center of Nashville will be actively engaged with long-term recovery efforts to provide basic essentials, clothing, household goods, and is collecting items to assist with debris removal, clean up and first responder needs.

Volunteer

Hands On Nashville is recruiting volunteers to help with disaster relief and recovery efforts, including cleanup and distribution of essential items to survivors and first responders. Visit hon.org to register as a volunteer or find a disaster-relief project.

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About the Nashville/Davidson County VOAD

The Nashville/Davidson County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) provides the framework for successful preparation and activation of nonprofits and private companies to provide essential augmentations for local government’s capacity and available resources during a disaster. The VOAD is a purposeful mechanism that scales up during crisis, strengthens area-wide disaster coordination, and enhances preparedness by sharing information and engaging in joint training.

The current VOAD steering committee includes:

  • American Red Cross of Tennessee
  • Catholic Charities of Tennessee
  • Community Resource Center
  • The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
  • Conexión Americas
  • Hands On Nashville
  • The Housing Fund
  • Lutheran Disaster Response
  • Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Nashville Humane Association
  • Salvation Army – Nashville Area Command
  • Neighbor to Neighbor
  • Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
  • United Methodist Committee on Relief – Tennessee Conference
  • United Way of Greater Nashville
  • Urban League of Middle Tennessee

‘We still have work to do’: Celebrating the volunteer spirit that powered us through 2020

We kicked off 2020 thinking we’d usher in a spring of commemoration. It had been 10 years since the devastating flood of 2010, during which time thousands of volunteers came together in a show of solidarity and spirit.

But hopes for reflection turned into action, this time in response to the March 3 tornado and COVID-19 pandemic. Again, volunteers showed how absolutely critical they are during disaster response and recovery.

We’re excited to share with you a video that celebrates the spirit of the volunteers helping our community get through this challenging time.

Hands On Nashville is in awe of this community. It’s not easy for folks to give to others while they themselves are hurting. But that’s what Nashvillians do. It’s who we are.

We’re working hard to be ready for the next disaster, and we can’t do it without you. Join us by volunteering or donating.

👋 Volunteer: http://hon.org/membership
🎁 Donate: http://hon.org/donate

Thank you for your support!

Thanks to Adelicia Company for the great partnership this year, and the beautiful videos! Additional thanks to everyone who contributed photos and video clips to help us tell this story.

Volunteer Andrew Befante trims tree debris.

After losing friends in the March 3 tornado, local musician and bartender turns to service to help others

By Ben Piñon HON Disaster Response Coordinator AmeriCorps member

Thousands of Nashvillians rushed to volunteer in the wake of the March 3 tornado. Andrew Benfante wasn’t one of them. 

“I didn’t have the emotional energy to do it,” Benfante says. “Normally I do — I like volunteering, I like helping people, but the time wasn’t right. Then COVID happened and the time really wasn’t right. It was kind of a hectic time for me, so I stayed away from everything.” 

Volunteer Andrew Benfante
removes storm debris from a
home.

Six months and a global pandemic later, Benfante is more than ready. He has now volunteered on four of HON’s debris-removal workdays since cleanup projects resumed in late June. Some days he has worked both the morning and afternoon shifts — cutting apart a mangled fence or moving heavy logs that came down in the storm. All for fellow Nashvillians he’s never met. 

Back in March, Benfante narrowly missed the worst of the damage where he lives in Germantown. He was out of power for four days. But that was just the beginning. The tornado had also taken not only his job, but two of his friends. 

Benfante worked at Attaboy, an East Nashville bar damaged by the tornado, which is still undergoing repairs. It’s also where he met his friends and co-workers, Michael Dolfini and his fiancée, Albree Sexton. They were all hanging out together shortly before the couple lost their lives in the tornado.

“He called her his hippie wife,” Benfante remembers fondly, “they had been together for so long.” 

“It was a tough night,” Benfante recalls, describing the Attaboy staff as a small, tight-knit group. He had left the bar only 30 minutes before the tornado touched down. “Those were some sad phone calls to make in the middle of the night. Calling just to see how everything was going, finding out that it wasn’t going well.”  

Volunteer Andrew Benfante
removes a wheelbarrow full
of storm debris from a home.

Benfante moved to Nashville four years ago. Like many, he came chasing music dreams. Just last year, he walked away from a band he had played with for eight years. Doing so led to a more recent reassessment of several aspects of his own life. Volunteering has been a really healthy part of that process, he says. 

Through his struggles over the past few months — navigating a pandemic, scraping by on unemployment, grieving friends — Benfante remains grateful for what he has to give.  

“I feel like if I have the time that others may not, I should freely give that time to the community while I’m being taken care of, at least temporarily,” he says. 

Giving back has left Benfante hopeful and inspired, humbled undoubtedly by the way he’s seen the Nashville community persevere in the face of tremendous challenges. 

“I think the less afraid we are of new things, of change, and each other… I think the more we trust each other, trust that everything balances out when it’s all said and done, the more joy we can find together as a community,” he says. “That’s most apparent to me right now in the kind of volunteer work that Hands On Nashville does. I’m happy to be a part of it.” 

Visit hon.org to find volunteer projects that meet critical needs in our community.

Project Connect continues efforts to feed hungry families in North Nashville

When a tornado touched down March 3 and left a 60-mile path of devastation through Middle Tennessee,  Project Connect Nashville knew what it had to do: Serve hot meals to North Nashville residents whose neighborhoods had been badly damaged.

The day after the storm, PCN — whose mission is to build relationships with individuals stuck in a cycle of poverty and connect them to the faith community, living wage jobs, and stable housing — established a central command for recovery, food, and supplies distribution.

PCN employees Quanita Thomas and the Rev. Ella Clay were essential in startup operations. Clay offered the church at which she pastors, the Historic First Community Church at 1815 Knowles St., and Thomas assisted with making connections in the neighborhood, helping even though her own home was damaged by the storm.

PC_6
Volunteers feed those in North Nashville following the March 3 tornado. [Project Connect Nashville]
Volunteers immediately began tracking of the needs of the neighborhood’s residents: Who lived where, how many meals each house needed, and even whether a home had names to add to their ongoing prayer list. The first two weeks after the storm were the most demanding because many of the homes did not have power, said Laura Ingram, PCN’s North Nashville Location Manager.

“We have about 400 addresses of people who we try to feed multiple times a week,” Ingram said. Those residents include families and those whose mobility is limited, such as seniors and individuals with disabilities, who otherwise would not have been able to access food in the wake of the disaster.

PCN, in partnership with Just the Crumbs — a faith-based mobile food unit from Columbia, Miss. — now serves and delivers meals five days a week, and offers essential resources to the community two hours a day at its North Nashville Resource Center at 1811 Knowles Street.

PC_4 (1)
Just The Crumbs is a disaster relief ministry that has been aiding PCN with food distribution efforts in North Nashville. [Project Connect Nashville]
When COVID-19 got a foothold in Middle Tennessee two weeks after the tornado and more people began staying at home, Ingram says PCN’s volunteer numbers began to dwindle. But she and her colleagues continued their efforts.

“Serving people food was something we really felt we needed to keep doing as it’s too risky for the elderly and disabled to get out and shop for fresh foods,” Ingram says.

As a precaution, PCN is limiting volunteer groups to six people, who are asked to maintain a safe distance when delivering meals. The organization provides gloves, and volunteers are asked to bring their own masks if possible.

“These volunteers are invaluable to us because PCN feels it does take a village to love this wide variety of people and neighborhoods,” Ingram says. “It’s something we can’t do alone, but together we are able to check on everybody and make sure no one is falling through the cracks.”

The idea for Project Connect Nashville was birthed out of the 2010 flood, when PCN’s executive director, Alan Murdock, coordinated recovery in partnership with the East Nashville community through his garden center in Five Points. The organization has now opened campuses in South and North Nashville, and offers classes to provide knowledge, skills, and encouragement, while offering a faith community to support individuals through life’s joys and struggles.

To volunteer with Project Connect Nashville, sign up here. For a list of needed donations, click here.

For the Community Resource Center, volunteers are key to meeting critical needs

The days since a tornado tore through Middle Tennessee just over a month ago have been long and exhausting for Tina Doniger and Maria Amado, who serve as the executive director and board chair, respectively, of the Community Resource Center. The CRC, which regularly supplies basic essentials to agencies serving vulnerable populations in more than 24 counties, was activated following the storm to serve as Metro Nashville’s collection and distribution point for donations deployed to survivors throughout the region.

For Doniger and Amado, even though the days sometimes blur together, it’s the acts of kindness and generosity that stand out.

Amado shares the story of Levi, a 3-year-old boy who came to the center with his grandmother to drop off donations.

“Levi is about 3 and a half, 4 years old, and he is sucking his thumb,” Amado recalls, retrieving a sandwich bag of coins and dollar bills from across the room. “And he had emptied out his piggy bank. For the kids who lost their homes.”

89606135_10156553595441442_4762251259539357696_o
Joe Pollard, left, hands the keys of his newly donated truck to the Community Resource Center’s Maria Amado, center, and Tina Doniger, right.

Then there’s Joe Pollard, president of the Bank of Odessa, Mo., who, upon realizing the CRC didn’t have a box truck of their own, donated the one he had driven down to donate supplies. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that left Doniger and Amado speechless.

The stories of generosity add up — volunteers who came for two hours and stayed for two weeks, those who took time off from their own jobs to volunteer, those who donated knowledge and skills to help the CRC expand its reach — and take the shape of a community pulling together to make an impact far greater than could have been made by one or two individuals.

As COVID-19 sent shock waves through the region, complicating tornado relief efforts and compounding community needs, Doniger says the CRC has continued to evolve its disaster response to meet those rapidly shifting needs.

“The service we provide is essential for people moving forward,” says Doniger — who is the CRC’s sole paid employee. “There’s now even more added pressure on the people who have been serving, and more added pressure on us to find people to help.”

Keeping volunteers healthy is top of mind for Doniger, who says she provides every safety measure she can for volunteers. She provides gloves, masks, and disinfectant. Within the warehouse, volunteers stay apart, sorting their donations on their respective shelves. Donation drop-offs are now conducted without any person-to-person contact.

“The only way to keep going is for people to help us do the work,” Doniger said. “If we don’t continue doing what we do, we won’t be prepared to service the people. As long as we are healthy, and we can open this door, we are going to serve people no matter what.”

To aid the CRC in its mission of serving those in need, sign up to volunteer here.