Tag Archives: Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer to support student success this school year!

Davidson County students are heading back to school next week, and our education partners could use your help! Mentor students, lead field trips, or organize classrooms — there are all kinds of ways to help! Keep scrolling for just a few of our suggestions, and learn how you can help make this school year the best one yet!

Read with preschoolers during a weekly storytime
King’s Daughters Child Development Center

When: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays through November

Visit preschoolers at a local child development center and read them stories! This quick volunteer opportunity only takes about 30 minutes. Volunteers can spend a quick visit with the kids, or read for multiple classes.

Create informative videos to educate students virtually
PENCIL
When:
Ongoing through December

Pick a topic surrounding elementary-level reading, middle school STEAM classes, or high school career readiness and preparation, and using your cell phone create a short, informative video for students! Videos can be between five and 15 minutes, and be simple and fun. Help PENCIL keep students engaged through virtual learning.

Educate kids during field study visits to the farm
The Land Trust for Tennessee
When:
9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13

Attend orientation with The Land Trust for Tennessee to begin hosting field trips when kids visit the farm! Volunteers will lead activities stations about trees, the history of the farm, gardening, the animals, and how to compost.

Offer field trip support to school groups visiting the museum
National Museum of African American Music
(NMAAM)
When: Ongoing through December

NMAAM volunteers will assist with chaperoning school-age students during field trips to the museum. Volunteers will engage with students and support logistics, group management, and enforcing safety protocols. Field trip support volunteers may help with facilitating school lunches and providing cleanup after.  

Provide academic and social-emotional support to elementary school students
FiftyForward
When:
Ongoing through December

FiftyForward is looking for adult volunteers age 55 and older to assist with their Friends Learning in Pairs (FLIP) tutoring program. Volunteers will serve as tutors and lunch buddies at partner schools and are an important part of helping students succeed.  FLIP tutors serve once or twice a week for approximately two hours at a time, meeting one-on-one with up to four students. 

Oversee play time and help with children’s homework
Begin Anew
When:
Ongoing through November

Volunteer as a children’s program volunteer and help children with their homework when needed; oversee playtime and facilitate enrichment activities, and lead bible study programming. Volunteers are needed at the Franklin and Nashville locations.

Tutor students through an accelerated scholars program
PENCIL
When:
Ongoing through December

The Accelerating Scholars program is recruiting community volunteers to tutor more than 7,000 MNPS students who need a little extra help and personalized support, especially in elementary reading or middle school and high school math. Volunteers provide support in three, 30-minute-long virtual tutoring sessions every week ​​during the fall semester beginning September 19.

Help with light maintenance and storage organization projects at a local center
YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee
When: Ongoing through January 2023

Help the YWCA with cleaning, maintaining the grounds, storage organization, donation sorting, and more! The YWCA helps families leave abusive households and start new lives. We provide free HiSET education to men and women and mentor middle & high school girls and boys in some of Nashville’s toughest neighborhoods. 

Tutor students to take the GED
Begin Anew
When:
Ongoing through November

Begin Anew is looking for volunteers to commit to a one-hour weekly tutoring session with adult learners preparing to take their GED! Subjects include math, reading, writing, social studies, and science.  Instruction is offered one-on-one or in small groups. 

Work in the gardens at Glencliff High School
Metro Nashville Public Schools
When: 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, Aug. 27, Sept. 10, and Sept. 24

Learn techniques for growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and other common vegetables, install drip irrigation, sow and harvest the plants, and more at Glencliff High School. All produce is harvested and distributed to local families or marketed and sold by students as part of their school-based enterprise. Proceeds benefit activities and trips for the school’s FFA chapter.

Become a volunteer reading tutor for students grades K-5
Y-CAP YMCA
When:
Ongoing through December

Virtually tutor young readers who are currently reading below their grade level. Volunteers will work with children in kindergarten through fifth grade to improve their literacy and comprehension skills. The YMCA offers a straightforward training process to ensure volunteers are ready to get reading.

Cut out materials for teachers to use in the classroom
PENCIL
When:
Morning and afternoon shifts available on Wednesdays

Use die-cut machines to create flashcards and other resources for teachers to use this coming school year. PENCIL provides a free resource center for teachers to shop and help stock their classrooms for a year of learning.

Encourage and mentor students through multiple learning programs
Begin Anew
When:
Ongoing through November

Work with students on a weekly basis to build relationships and encourage them as they work through HSE (High School Equivalency) programs, learn English, or complete computer and job skills training.
(Mentors also needed in Madison or Franklin!)

How can you serve your community on MLK Day?

MLK Day is a holiday dedicated to the remembrance and celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Making time to volunteer for this Day of Service is a great way to engage with your community while honoring the legacy of Dr. King. Whether you plan on cleaning up a public space, mentoring a young person, or assisting those who are food insecure, what you do makes a world of difference.

Below we have rounded up a list of MLK Day service projects for the week of Jan. 17-24. To view a full list of HON’s January opportunities, click  here.

If you serve on MLK Day, we want to know! Share your stories on social media using the hashtags #MLKDay and #DayON. 

Collect books for donation with the Safe Haven Black Book Drive 
Safe Haven Family Shelter 
Minimum age: 15+
When: Ongoing until Jan. 31 

Want to support two causes at the same time? Safe Haven Family Shelter is collecting books that feature a civil rights leader and/or about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Volunteer by donating books to children experiencing homelessness and by supporting a Black-owned business!

Pick up debris at the West Nashville Encampment Clean Up 
Shower The People 
Minimum age: 16+
When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24

Help Shower the People pick up litter and remove debris from the West Nashville/Brookemeade encampment shelter.  This is an important opportunity to help keep trash out of our local waterways and help our unhoused companions maintain a more suitable living space.

Read books with kids at the McNeilly Book Fair 
McNeilly Center for Children  
Minimum age: 10+
When: 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18

McNeilly Center for Children will need a few volunteers to assist staff during the book fair. Volunteers will help students pick books that interest them, and engage by reading and coloring together.

Remove invasive plants at Shelby Park
Friends of Shelby Park 
Minimum age: 14+
When: 1 to 3:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17

Help Friends of Shelby Park eliminate obtrusive plants that are harmful to the environment, human wealth, and/or the economy. Join other volunteers in investing energy and time while removing invasive plants. Snacks, water, and gloves will be provided. 

Maintain trains and keep visitors safe at the ‘Trains!’ exhibit
Adventure Science Center  
Minimum age: 14+
When: Jan. 13 – Jan. 31 

Bring joy to the community by helping the Adventure Science Center with their train exhibit! As a volunteer you will help staff clean and rotate engines, troubleshoot any faulty trains, and monitor the exhibit for safety and cleanliness. No experience necessary!

Beautify the McNeilly Center while learning more about Dr. King
McNeilly Center for Children
Minimum age: 5+
When: 9 a.m. – noon Monday, Jan. 17

Help get the center ready for spring by helping remove graffiti and other markings from the building, and getting the center’s flower planters ready for spring! This event will also include a discussion for volunteers about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s thoughts and teachings about education and childcare with McNeilly Executive Director, Alyssa Dituro. 

Deliver Food to Afghan Refugees
The Branch of Nashville
Minimum age: 12+
When: 5:30-6p.m. on Mondays

Volunteers are needed to pick up pre-made meals from the food bank and deliver them to Afghan families in the Nashville areas. The Branch is partnering with refugee resettlement agencies in Tennessee, and helping provide weekly food support to many of the 400 Afghan allies arriving in the area. 

Virtual Opportunities:

Tutor students through the accelerating scholars program
PENCIL 
Minimum age: 18+
When: Ongoing through Jan. 31

PENCIL is looking for volunteers to assist with reinforcing students’ learning capacities in various subject areas. Since the pandemic progress has slowed for many students, and with this transformative educational tool educators are hoping to get students back on track!

Teach English to adult learners with Conexión Américas!
Conexiόn Amѐricas 
Minimum age: 18+
When: Ongoing through April 20

Conexiόn Amѐricas is enlisting volunteer teachers for the Spring 2022 term for adult English students. Volunteers will provide 1-hour lessons two nights a week for a 12-week term. Educating experience is suggested, but not required for this rewarding experience.  

Hands On Nashville’s 2021 Guide to Holiday Volunteer Opportunities

Looking for ways to give back to the community this holiday season? We’ve got you covered with great opportunities for your family, or to do with friends! Thank you for your support of Middle Tennessee’s nonprofits, and from the HON family to yours, we hope you have a very happy holiday.

To view even more volunteer opportunities, visit our calendar.

Distribute gifts to Angel Tree families
Salvation Army Nashville

Minimum age: 12
When: Dec. 17-22

The Salvation Army needs volunteers to assist in distributing gifts to the Angel Tree families. The families will come to the warehouse beginning Dec. 17. Volunteer are needed to help locate gifts and take them to family’s cars.

Create postcards supporting the Build Back Better campaign
Tennessee Justice Center
Minimum age: 13 
When: December 20 

Join the Tennessee Justice Center for their holiday party on Zoom, where volunteers will be writing letters to congress as part of the Build Back Better Postcard Campaign.  During the festivities guests will be able to win raffle prizes, listen to Christmas music, and sit in on a Q&A about this latest campaign.

Guide guests through the magical world of Holiday Lights
Cheekwood Estates & Gardens 
Minimum age:
16
When:
Dec. 16 – Jan. 9

Greet guests and offer directions as folks explore the winter wonderland of Cheekwood’s Holiday Lights! Volunteers are stationed at major traffic areas throughout the gardens, and given an orientation to answer frequently-asked questions. Volunteers must be able to show COVID-19 vaccine care or image of card, and wear a mask indoors.

Wrap diapers for new families in need
Nashville Diaper Connection
Minimum age: 12
When: Dec. 30

Count and wrap diapers before they are packaged and distributed to families in need. Volunteers will help with labeling and organization of the diapers, and assist with other warehouse tasks as needed. Masks are required for all volunteers.

Cook a meal with the residents of Dismas House
Dismas House of Nashville
Minimum age: 12
When: Dec. 16 – 30

Dismas House is always looking for volunteers interested in preparing a meal (or ordering something in to share) with their residents! Volunteers can prepare meals in a state-of-the-art kitchen, with plenty of sous chefs for help! Each night has a culinary theme to help give you an idea of what to prepare. Italian, Asian, Mexican, and Breakfast for Dinner are just a few of the menu options!

Create Love Your Neighbor Notes to help spread cheer
Community Resource Center
Minimum age: 4
When: Ongoing (Virtual!)

Create notes, cards, and drawings from the comfort of your home with your little ones. The CRC uses these drawings to include in their hygiene and relief packages for neighbors in need. (Like those impacted by the Dec. 10-11 severe storms!) Creativity and color is always encouraged, and volunteers are asked to complete their cards within two weeks of signing up.

Foster a pet for a family in crisis
Pawster Nashville
Minimum age: 18
When: Ongoing

Pawster Nashville provides “Crisis Foster Care” for dogs and cats. When a pet owner is temporarily unable to care for their animal due to crisis, a volunteer foster is asked to care for the animal until their owner is back on their feet. Sign up to be a Pawster Foster, and you help keep a pet and their person together.

Help make improvements to Mill Ridge Park
Friends of Mill Ridge Park
Minimum age: 18
When: Dec. 21

Volunteer to improve primitive hiking trails at the forthcoming Mill Ridge Park in Antioch. Volunteering consists of a variety of instructed tasks, including brush clearing, digging and regrading, trash and debris removal, marking and signing trails on the natural parkland.

Prepare food totes for the community
Nashville General Hospital
Minimum age: 15
When: Dec. 16 – Jan. 27

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, volunteers package 30 to 60 food totes to be delivered to households that experience food insecurity. The food pharmacy is on the lower level of the hospital, so volunteers will be away from any patient areas. This is a great for individuals and small groups!

Get in a workout while helping the local community garden
BELL Garden
Minimum age: 18
When: Dec. 18

Some strong volunteers are needed to help prep the garden for the 2022 growing season! Volunteers will be asked to lift 50 pounds of mulch and soil and help spread it across the garden beds. The BELL Garden serves as a teaching and learning lab for volunteers, students of Bellevue Middle Prep, and the community.  

Volunteer during Fall Break!

With the leaves beginning to change and the smell of fall in the air — it’s time for this year’s fall roundup! Opportunities range between Oct. 8 – 17 and are great for college students home for Fall Break, or a parent looking for wholesome (and free!) ways to spend time with their kiddos.

Reminder: Many of our nonprofit partners have opportunities available all year long. Click the title of each opportunity to learn more and sign up. You can also find opportunities to volunteer all year long by visiting our calendar!

Pick up litter and keep Shelby Park beautiful
Friends of Shelby Park
Minimum age: 18, or 6 with an adult
When: Saturday, Oct. 9

Join the Friends of Shelby Park and your neighbors for a park-wide sweep of Shelby Park. Volunteers will be picking up trash to keep the park beautiful and keep litter out of our streams and rivers.

Share a meal with residents at Dismas House
Dismas House of Nashville
Minimum age: 18, 12 with an adult
When: Monday through Thursday, Oct. 11-14

Prepare dinner as a family (or order something in) and dine with the residents of Dismas House! Volunteers can prepare a meal in the Dismas state-of-the-art kitchen, or attend a Thursday night meal and help prepare dinner with the group.

Help prune and prep Nashville’s first permaculture park space
Grow Enrichment
Minimum age: 18, or 8 with an adult
When: Oct. 11  

Spend time as a family learning more about Nashville’s first permaculture
park. This park explores urban farming and woodlands to maximize food
production and utilizing space. Volunteers will help spread wood chips, mulch,
and transplant trees.

Sort and pack items for relief and hygiene kits
The Community Resource Center
Minimum age: 15, or 8 with an adult
When: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 

Set up production stations, sort materials (like soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste) and compile kits for distribution. These kits are then given to people in need all over the community, from tornado survivors to those currently experiencing homelessness.

Prepare and distribute food bags to guests in need
The Branch of Nashville
Minimum age: 15, or 8 with an adult
When: Mondays through Saturdays

Volunteers and their families will be assisting with guest intake and preparing and distributing food bags for guests, while the little ones can help clean and assemble empty carts.

Help improve the farm at Mill Ridge Park
Friends of Mill Ridge
Minimum age: 18
When: Fridays, Oct. 8 – Oct. 15

Volunteers will help construct improvements to the farmyard and farmhouse, which involves planting, mulching, and pruning trees; removing invasive plants and weeds; debris and trash removal; farmhouse repairs; fence work, and more.

Prepare dinner as a family to share with local hospital guests
Hospital Hospitality House – Nashville
Minimum age: 18, or 10 with an adult
When: Tuesday and Thursday, Oct. 12 and 14

Prepare dinner at home with your family, then bring the meal to the Hospitality House to share with its guests. Dinner guests consist of patients and caregivers that stay at Hospitality House while seeking medical treatment in Nashville. Meals should feed approximately 30 people.

Help deep clean and organize the reuse center
Turnip Green Creative Reuse
Minimum age: 18
When: Monday, Oct. 11

Organize, clean, sort, and find fun ways to display donations at Turnip Green’s Reuse Center! Deep cleans are held on Mondays when the center is closed to the public. This is a great way to keep shoppers safe, and keep the store organized and tidy!

Direct guests and offer assistance at the Fall Craft Fair
Tennessee Craft
Minimum age: 18
When:  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Oct. 8 – 10

Volunteers are needed to direct vendors to their booth locations, bring in artwork and tents, keep traffic flowing, and assist fairgoers as they come to explore.

Tend to the community garden and prepare for the next planting season
Friends of Shelby Park
Minimum age: 18, or 12 with an adult
When: Oct. 16

Spend time as a family in nature helping the Friends of Shelby Park prep the community garden! Volunteers will help plant herbs, weed, and tend to existing plants. This is a great opportunity to teach young minds more about gardening!

It may be cold now, but spring is almost here! Check out these outdoorsy volunteer opportunities coming up

Middle Tennessee feels like a frozen tundra lately, but we’ve got dreams of spring. As the days grow longer and the weather warms, lots of local organizations are planting trees, prepping gardens, and getting park and public spaces cleaned up and ready for prime time.  

Want to get out of the house for a workout that will also help beautify the city? Here are some upcoming volunteer opportunities soon blooming near you: 

Prep the BELL Garden for the upcoming growing season (several shifts)

The Bellevue Edible Learning Lab is gearing up for another growing season and needs community engagement! The garden serves as teaching and learning lab for volunteers, students of Bellevue Middle Prep, and for the community. No gardening experience is necessary. Children are allowed with adult supervision.  

SIGN UP HERE (several shifts available) 

Clean out the Inspiritus gardens in preparation for planting (multiple dates)

The Inspiritus Healthy Garden Program empowers families in public and subsidized housing to grow their own food in raised-bed gardens right outside their doors. Volunteers are needed to clean out the gardens and prepare them for spring planting. Inspiritus will provide tools — just dress warmly and bring gloves! 

SIGN UP HERE (several shifts available) 

Take back the earth from invasive species during Weed Wrangle (March 6, multiple locations)

Nothing says spring’s coming like the annual Weed Wrangle! Hundreds of people will take to parks and public spaces to pull up invasive plant species — honeysuckle, privet, winter creeper, and more. Weed Wrangle is being held in Shelby Bottoms, Cumberland Park, Two Rivers Park, Harpeth Hall, Forest Hills, Cheekwood, Owl’s Hill, and Warner Parks.   

BROWSE LOCATIONS AND SIGN UP HERE  

Replenish the urban canopy with Nashville Tree Foundation (March 3 and March 6)

NTF’s Releaf 2020 campaign aims to restore Nashville’s canopy, which took a huge hit during the March 3, 2020, tornado. Two upcoming events will help establish trees in East Nashville. Both opportunities are family friendly and allow for children as young as 6 to participate if they are accompanied by an adult.  

SIGN UP FOR MARCH 3 HERE (East Nashville) 
 
SIGN UP FOR MARCH 6 HERE (Shelby Park) 
 

Help beautify Radnor Lake State Park (several dates in spring, summer, and fall)

Volunteers are needed to build and mulch trails, remove invasive plants, and occasionally to help clean trash out of the park and streams. The work can be strenuous but it’s very rewarding to support such a beautiful state park right here in our back yard. Projects happen rain or shine. 

SIGN UP HERE 

Help Turnip Green Creative Reuse establish a community garden (Feb. 20)

Volunteers will get their hands dirty to help build out a community garden and outdoor learning space in Wedgewood-Houston. Activities may include creating composting and rainwater collection site, building and maintaining garden beds from reusable materials, and building pollinator hotels from recycled materials. 

SIGN UP HERE (full but you can join the waiting list)  
 

Friends of Shelby Park small tree planting (Feb. 20)

Volunteers will transplant seedlings from the tree nursery to their forever homes in Shelby Park, which was hit hard by the March 3, 2020, tornado.  

SIGN UP HERE (full but you can join the waiting list) 

Show of Hands Week Day 4: Join the local mask-making movement

Between May 1-7, Hands On Nashville will highlight ways to stay connected and serve your neighbors even as our community honors social distancing guidelines. Check back here and on our social media channels to join in our #ShowOfHandsWeek: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

MasksNOW is a nationwide grassroots organization that sprang up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The local chapter — MasksNOW TN — has received requests for more than 12,000 masks from more than 26 facilities and essential workers across Tennessee, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

You don’t have to be a sewist to volunteer with MasksNOW, as there are many types of roles that help power their efforts, including fundraising and administrative tasks. Register now and join the more than 118 Tennessee volunteers who already have signed up.

We talked with Brenda Gadd and Katrina Henderson, the Tennessee state leads for MasksNOW, to discuss their organization and how individuals can get involved.

Can you tell me more about what types of volunteer roles you’re looking for? 

BG: We definitely need sewists. We’ve had over 10,000 calls for masks — and that’s being conservative — so we do need sewists doing the work, but there’s also distribution, and needing volunteers to pick up materials or have them mailed. The more sewists we get, the more capacity we will have and the more entities we can reach out to.

How did you begin recruiting volunteers for MasksNOW TN?

BG: We quickly found there are a lot of folks out there who want to help, or who are already sewing but they need to know how to connect with resources. That’s really what this does in a simple way — it allows the volunteers to take control of what they want to do and match with the need. Once we get a volunteer in our system, we can get you materials and match you with donations.  

Can you tell me a little more about the masks?

KH: These masks are for anyone and everyone; we don’t discriminate about who we give them to. We are doing a lot of work with Room In The Inn, the homeless population in Nashville, and they’re all free.

BG: Right. We don’t sell them, these are all volunteer made, and we’ve been trying to collaborate with local businesses as well. We’ve set up partnerships in the community with people who donate one mask for every mask sold. 

What can volunteers expect after they sign up? 

KH: Volunteers should expect an email within 48 hours of signing up, welcoming them and telling them how it all works. They’re also welcome to reach out to me directly at KatrinaTN@masksnow.org  if they have questions.

Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

TODAY’S ACTIVITIES (MAY 4): Join the Mask Making Movement

As health officials recommend wearing face masks in certain public places, the need for widespread availability of masks is crucial. Here are three ways you can help:

  1. Volunteer: Organizations including MasksNOW and Make Nashville are sewing for a cause and aiming to slow the spread of COVID-19. If you’re interested in volunteering with one of these partner organizations, click here.
  2. Donate money or materials: Both MasksNOW and Make Nashville accept donations of money and items to help them meet their missions. Learn more about donating to Make Nashville hereLearn more about donating to MasksNOW here.
  3. Make your own masks for personal use: MasksNOW has provided patterns for those handy with a needle or without. And for some helpful safety guidelines, see the CDC’s recommendations here.

#ShowOfHandsWeek Activities

FRIDAY, MAY 1: Raise your hand and tell us why you choose to be a helper

SATURDAY, MAY 2: Sign up to serve as a volunteer in May

SUNDAY, MAY 3: Bring color and hope to a neighbor with flowers 

TODAY: Join the local mask-making effort

TUESDAY, MAY 5: Give thanks for those on the front lines

WEDNESDAY, MAY 6: Find a virtual volunteer opportunity

THURSDAY, MAY 7: Support volunteerism and Hands On Nashville via The Big Payback

Show Of Hands Week Day 2: Help us fill 100% of volunteer projects this month

Between May 1-7, Hands On Nashville will highlight ways to stay connected and serve your neighbors even as our community honors social distancing guidelines. Check back here and on our social media channels to join in our #ShowOfHandsWeek

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the Nashville flood. We had hoped to commemorate this important milestone with Hands On Nashville Day, a day for thousands of volunteers across the city to come together to work on projects that addressed disaster preparedness and ongoing community needs, many of which had been born out of those tumultuous waters.

Then the tornado hit.

Then COVID-19.

So today, even though we can’t gather for HON Day as we had hoped, there are still thousands of volunteers needed right now to meet urgent needs in our city. Will you lend your helping hands to fill every volunteer spot during the month of May?  

It is through serving others that we as a community can heal from profound disasters — be it the disaster of 10 years ago, two months ago, or the kind that’s affecting many of us every day in our current situation. While circumstances are undeniably difficult, we know it’s more important than ever to do whatever we can to help our neighbors. Many of our neighbors need so much.

TODAY’S ACTIVITIES (MAY 2): Sign Up and Serve

The countdown starts now: Help us fill every available volunteer opportunity for the month of May today.

☞ ☞ ☞Click here to see a roundup this month’s volunteer opportunities on hon.org.   

Curious about volunteering in light of Nashville’s Safer At Home order? Volunteer Tennessee has put together some helpful guidelines here, and HON is working with our partners to ensure that volunteer projects meet public health and safety requirements.

#ShowOfHandsWeek Activities

Join the #ShowOfHandsWeek conversation on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

FRIDAY, MAY 1: Raise your hand and tell us why you choose to be a helper

TODAY: Sign up to serve as a volunteer in May

SUNDAY, MAY 3: Bring color and hope to a neighbor with flowers

MONDAY, MAY 4: Join the local mask-making effort

TUESDAY, MAY 5: Give thanks for those on the front lines

WEDNESDAY, MAY 6: Find a virtual volunteer opportunity

THURSDAY, MAY 7: Support volunteerism and Hands On Nashville via The Big Payback

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.”

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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.

A day on, not a day off: Spend your MLK Day helping others

This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 20 marks the 25th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the civil rights leader’s life and legacy. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.

Below we’ve rounded up a list of MLK Day service projects led by HON AmeriCorps members. (To view a full list of HON’s January opportunities, click here.)

If you serve on MLK Day, we want to know! Share your stories on social media using the hashtags #MLKDay and #DayON25.

Pick up litter to keep waterways clean
Richland Creek Watershed Alliance
Minimum age: 18, or 12 with an adult
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 20

Collect your free, reusable #grabthelitter bag and volunteer with Richland Creek Watershed Alliance (RCWA) and pick up litter along the Richland Creek Greenway or in your local neighborhood. Learn how to prevent litter from washing into local streams, creeks, and rivers, and reuse your #grabthelitter bag to continue volunteering all year long.

Assemble furniture for McGruder Family Resource Center
Hands On Nashville
Minimum age: 18
When: 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Jan. 20

Build lounge and rocking chairs, side tables, and storage units to help McGruder Family Resource Center spruce up their patio and computer lab areas. These items will allow for easy organization of supplies and offer families that frequent McGruder comfortable places to relax and work. Volunteers should wear closed-toe shoes and dress comfortably.

Plant a tree and beautify an assisted living center
Cumberland River Compact
Minimum age: 18 or 1 with an adult
When: 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Jan. 20

Get ready to get a little dirty and plant some trees with the Cumberland River Compact. Gloves, tools and snacks will be provided. Volunteers are asked to wear closed-toe shoes and bring reusable water bottles.

Round up and recycle with Oak Hill residents
Tennessee Environmental Council
Minimum age: 18 or 12 with an adult
When: 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 20

Help educate and assist residents of Oak Hill in recycling at The Tennessee Environmental Council’s recycle round up. Residents will learn about their community’s recycling policies and help residents sort their hard-to-recycle materials (like computers, clothes, and phones.) Volunteers will monitor the recycling and composting stations, and help participants unload recyclables from their vehicles.

Provide shade and filter pollution by planting trees
Nashville Tree Foundation
Minimum age: 16 or 6 with an adult
When: 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 18

Trees are being planted at three different Metro Nashville Public School locations in East Nashville. (See the separate registration pages in the link above!) This event is an annual, family-friendly tree planting with the Nashville Tree Foundation. These trees make Nashville a greener community by creating an oxygen-rich environment, and reducing flooding by absorbing great amounts of ground water.

Donate needed items for young adults experiencing homelessness
Hands On Nashville
Minimum age: 18 or 1 with an adult
When: Ongoing though Jan. 17

It only takes a few minutes, but donating electronics, art supplies, personal care items, bottled water, and gift cards can have a big impact for those served by Nashville Launch Pad. Items can be donated at the Hands On Nashville office, 37 Peabody St., before Jan. 18. Read the full list of requested items here.