Tag Archives: volunteer leader

VolunTEEN: What the Future Looks Like

Emily headshotGuest Post by Emily McAndrew,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Emily McAndrew, a rising junior at Merrol Hyde Magnet School, is one of the four inaugural Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Emily leads service learning opportunities that address hunger.

When thinking of the future, many adults fear that the new generation is too lazy, too self-centered, or too unenthusiastic to lead the nation. But in spending the past three weeks around teens who voluntarily give up their time to serve others, I can say without a doubt that this generation is ready to build a bright future.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the day of my first project. I was worried that the teens wouldn’t like me or that they wouldn’t listen to me. But as the volunteers came in, my fears were diminished. They were all here to serve and have fun just like myself!

I have led kids from all different backgrounds. Most of them have volunteered at multiple HON VolunTEEN projects. Through getting to work with these teens at different times, I have gotten to know some of them pretty well. Each volunteer brings a different aspect to the group, but I have learned that they each share one thing in common: a desire to make a difference.

Although the nation may have a preconceived notion that all teenagers are unfit to be the leaders of tomorrow, I have learned differently. I have met the most hard-working and selfless youth working with HON. These volunteers are our future.

Learn more about HON’s youth leader programs here!

Youth volunteers taking a quick break at Second Harvest Food Bank.
Youth volunteers taking a quick break at Second Harvest Food Bank.

VolunTEEN: The Pencil Foundation

Runze headshotGuest Post by Runze Zhang,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Runze Zhang, a rising junior at Martin Luther King High Academic Magnet School, is one of four inaugural  Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Runze leads service learning opportunities that address health and wellness.

Leading volunteer projects has been wonderful to say the least. The opportunities provided by Hands On Nashville have allowed me to develop leadership skills and form friendships as well.

My projects revolve around health and wellness, which I am most interested in. In addition to sharing information about healthy living with others, I have learned some valuable lessons on the topic myself.

One of my best experiences so far was sorting school supplies with the Pencil Foundation, during which I focused on mental health. All of the volunteers served eagerly and diligently and showed great teamwork. Although they were all under the age of eighteen, the volunteers understood the purpose and importance of the project — providing free school supplies to teachers. Kim, the Pencil Foundation project supervisor, infected everyone with her enthusiasm and motivated me to continue working with the foundation.

After leading several projects as a youth leader for Hands On Nashville, I have realized my passion for volunteering and helping others, and they are both things that I hope to maintain for the rest of my life.

Learn more about HON’s VolunTEEN program here!

Volunteers sort donated school supplies for the Pencil Foundation.

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.

VolunTEEN: The Importance of Teamwork

ferriss headshot1Guest post by Ferriss Bailey,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Ferriss Bailey, a rising senior at Montgomery Bell Academy, is one of the four inaugural Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Ferriss leads service learning opportunities that address the environment.

Prior to joining the Summer Youth Leader Program at Hands On Nashville, I had been a regular at service projects through my school, but I did not have many chances to lead my peers in those endeavors.

This program, organized by Colleen Callaghan and Lauren Levy, has given me an opportunity to take the lead on projects about which I am passionate. I can never repay Hands On Nashville for giving me this opportunity and for teaching me how to be a better peer leader.

Leading a project entails many different responsibilities and duties. Personally, I think that the most important task is to get the group working together as a team. No project is ever exactly the same, even if we are all doing the same work. There may be a group of twenty thirteen year-olds or just four high school seniors. What does not change from project to project is the importance of teamwork. Without teamwork, the projects can seem daunting and discouraging, and it always takes more effort and time. As I have gotten better at instilling a sense of teamwork, groups have been able to get more work done while having a great time as well.

Learn more about HON’s VolunTEEN program here!

Enthusiastic youth volunteers taking a quick break from their hard work!
Enthusiastic youth volunteers taking a quick break from their hard work!

Volunteer Leader Spotlight: Julie Hill

julie121212Between her hobbies of hiking, biking, camping, and painting, Julie Hill seems to find herself leading volunteers and helping others on a regular basis. Just like getting in that habitual workout at the gym, Julie needs her community fix – and the community needs her. Twice a month, this southern California native works with a team to help prep and cook food for people who don’t have easy access to fresh produce. She has become an integral part of The Nashville Food Project, a local nonprofit that seeks to provide increased access to healthy foods in homeless and working poor communities across Davidson County.“I like the Nashville Food Project because you have two steps: preparing the food and handing it out to the individuals in need. I find it very fulfilling to be able to meet the individuals that we are there to help,” says Julie. “For me, volunteering is such a rewarding experience; I get the benefits of helping others and meeting great people who enjoy giving back to the community.”

She’s been working with The Nashville Food Project as a Volunteer Leader since September 2012, but has been an active Hands On Nashville volunteer since 2009. From a very young age, Julie was taught that helping her community was part of normal life. She continues to value the opportunity to help out her community and encourage those around her to do the same.

Julie has found Hands On Nashville to be a wonderful place to get connected. “By offering such a great website and partnerships, and the amazing people, Hands On Nashville makes volunteering truly a no-hassle and thoroughly enjoyable experience.”

Are you looking to get involved with The Nashville Food Project like Julie?
➢ Click here to see a list of upcoming opportunities and sign up.

Volunteer Leader Spotlight: Camilla Baird


Eight years ago, Camilla made the big move to Music City. This “concert junkie,” as she calls herself, was out to see new things and put her mark on the world.

It turns out that her passion for live music wasn’t the only thing that made Camilla fall in love with Nashville. The city’s culture of service also made it a great fit for this spunky St. Louis native. Camilla’s fond childhood memories of her parents showing her the importance of serving others inspired her to get involved in community service in her new city. Shortly after moving to town, Camilla found herself involved in all sorts of community happenings that helped those in need.

Nashville CARES became a regular project for Camilla.  “After moving to Nashville,” she mentions, “it was important to follow their lead and give back and grow my roots here.”

For the past 6 months, Camilla has stepped up even more and taken a new role at Nashville CARES as the Volunteer Leader. Each week, she leads volunteer groups in helping to pack food that is given to individuals and families in need. She loves this project because “it serves so many in the Nashville area and beyond.” The CARES packages provide food to help an HIV/AIDS victim and/or family member for weeks. “It feels so good to know that my minor efforts are helping in a major way to provide essential nutrition for those in need,” says Camilla.

Camilla moved here eight years ago and it took her a few years to find her niche at Nashville CARES. Why? Because she was eager to experiment with all the HON.org opportunities. Camilla encourages everyone to “be open and willing to try new things until you find a good fit.” With so much need and an accessible opportunity calendar at anyone’s fingertips, there is certainly something for everyone to try. “I love feeling like I made a difference, even if it’s just a little part of my time,” says Camilla.

Making CARES Packages occurs every Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 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, Camilla, for your leadership and volunteerism!

Volunteer Leader Spotlight: Mario LaGrone

Mario and his team taking a break to strike a pose as they volunteer at Haywood Lane fire station over MLK Day Weekend.

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.”

Watch out, fire trucks. Mario and his team were busy helping Nashville's Haywood Lane Fire Station on MLK Day weekend.

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.

Volunteer Leader Spotlight: Megan Zarling

Megan Zarling

“I may not change someone’s entire life, but I can be the change for that moment or day,” says 33-year-old Megan Zarling as she reflects on her new role as Volunteer Leader with Hands On Nashville.

This sense of purpose and mission wasn’t always so apparent, though. After working in the music business for 10 years, Megan found that she wasn’t quite as fulfilled by her work as she used to be. She was raised to believe that it’s important to “put others first,” yet she saw herself growing more and more distant from that philosophy. And trying new sushi restaurants with her husband wasn’t enough to tame the adventurer inside.

In May 2010, Megan found herself in her first volunteer experience when Nashville was hit by the flood. The volunteer relief efforts reinvigorated her spirit of community and motivated her to give back. “I could not believe the amount of work HON [volunteers] were able to take on. The results [of flood relief efforts] were mind boggling to me.” In June 2011, Megan decided to dive headfirst into the nonprofit world and make volunteering a more consistent centerpiece of her life.

After trying a few different volunteer opportunities, she found her fit at Nashville Cares where she leads volunteers making care packages for HIV/AIDS affected families. “Before we start, the wall is lined with empty shelves. By the time we leave, those shelves are packed with food bags,” she says. “It’s an amazing feeling to know the food bags we put together will feed Cares’ clients for the next several weeks.”

This busy wife, mother-to-be, workout enthusiast and dog-lover encourages anyone who will listen to integrate service into their lifestyle, too. “It only takes a little time and an open mind to volunteer. There is literally something for everyone. The best part about volunteering is at the end knowing you did something for someone else.  The feeling of being selfless for a brief period of time is priceless.”

Making CARES Packages occurs every Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 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, Megan, for your leadership and volunteerism!

HON Volunteer Bonnie Zacovic Finds the Silver Lining Through Service

Did you know that every HON-coordinated volunteer opportunity is led by a Hands On Nashville Volunteer Leader? Whether they are leading bingo night at a retirement home, dinner at Hope Lodge, or goalball with the Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes, these folks are dedicated, compassionate volunteers who commit to leading the same project on a regular basis. Simply put, Volunteer Leaders are at the heart of what we do, and they have some remarkable stories. Here’s one of them:

When Bonnie Zacovic was laid off from her job in 2009, she knew she had a choice to make. She could either be depressed about it, or she could use the opportunity to help others.

“I decided to look for the silver lining,” Bonnie says. “I had been working solid for 25 years … I had been traveling all the time, working long hours, and was not able to give time to anything else but my job and my family.”

“So I realized I was given a gift of time – time to give back, time to help others less fortunate, time to get involved with the community.”

Bonnie volunteering with The Nashville Food ProjectBonnie preparing The Nashville Food Project truck for a Sunday delivery.

When devastating floods struck the Middle Tennessee area in May of last year, Bonnie began volunteering with Hands On Nashville and she hasn’t looked back since. She now serves as the Volunteer Leader for two projects with The Nashville Food Project.

“I like these projects because of what they do. They provide the basic need of food and water to the most distraught population in our community, the homeless. This situation could happen to any one of us at any time, and being part of a solution that gives them hope in humanity is so rewarding. This is what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to help those in need, not turn away… These are our neighbors, and they need us.”

Fun facts about Bonnie:
•    Native of Cleveland, Ohio who has lived in Tennessee since 1994
•    Works full time as a senior project manager
•    Enjoys spending her free time supporting her youngest son, 16, on the soccer field, and loves working out; has completed several half marathons and one full marathon – Go, Bonnie!
•    What advice would she give to new volunteers? “Pick opportunities that speak to your heart, and try things that will take you out of your comfort zone. I would also recommend that if you can’t get a group of your friends to volunteer with you, do it yourself anyway. It is so great to meet new people and when you go alone, it forces you to interact with everyone.”

Food Prep with The Nashville Food Project (TNFP), and Feed the Hungry with TNFP occur on the second Sunday of each month from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., respectively. Visit our Opportunity Calendar at http://www.HON.org to learn more and to sign up.