Tag Archives: volunteer state

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.

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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.

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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.

Resolve to Serve Stories: Shower The People

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John Sabo has been volunteering with Shower The People for a little over a year.

Every week, John Sabo drives across town and parks next to a big white bus. He packs bags of dirty towels into his car, brings them home, and plans when in his schedule he’ll fit four loads of laundry.

Sabo returns the clean, dried, and folded towels to the team at Shower The People, a nonprofit whose retrofitted retired school bus acts as a mobile shower facility for people experiencing homelessness. Sabo picks up another batch of towels, takes them home, and begins the wash cycle all over again. 

“I think it’s a necessity,” he says. “I might not be able to change the world, but I can change one situation.”   

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Sabo describes homelessness as a “challenging and lonely lifestyle.” His son, who experienced homelessness, died four years ago. To honor his son’s memory, Sabo dedicates time to multiple nonprofits that provide aid to people struggling with hunger and housing instability.

“John has been such an amazing blessing to our organization,” says Meredith MacLeod Jaulin, Shower the People’s Chief Administrator. “Our volunteers understand how much of a difference being clean and taking a shower can be to an individual.” 

Jaulin says those who utilize Shower The People’s mobile facilities often experience a renewed sense of dignity and self-worth. Access to better hygiene can also open doors to job opportunities and housing.

She adds that, without volunteers like Sabo, keeping operations running smoothly would be difficult.  

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Shower The People converted an old school bus into a mobile showering unit to aid people experiencing homelessness.

“My philosophy is that there are some people on the front line, like Shower The

People, that have direct contact with these individuals in need,” Sabo says, “and there are other people behind the scenes to make sure things work so the frontline people can do their jobs.” 

Sabo works closely with Jaulin to coordinate schedules, and between driving, washing, drying, and folding, Sabo gives as many as seven hours of his week to the organization.  

“It’s worth the effort to help other people,” he says. “I would just say look at what you have, then look at what other people don’t have, and see if you can make the world a little bit better place just by helping out.”   

Interested in volunteering with Shower The People? Check out their available volunteer opportunities here.

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Young volunteers pose for a photo after volunteering with Shower The People.

 Photos courtesy of Shower The People.

Check out these family-friendly Fall Break volunteer opportunities

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Whether you’re a college student home for Fall Break, or a parent looking for a wholesome (and free!) way for your kiddos to pass the time, we’re here to connect you to volunteer opportunities at lots of great Nashville organizations. The opportunities highlighted below fall between Oct. 5-13, but many agencies have opportunities available all season long. Click the title of each opportunity to learn more and sign up.

Also: look for ways to give back to your community year-round on our calendar.

1. Learn to garden while prepping for the upcoming harvest

Bellevue Edible Learning Lab Inc.
Minimum age: 16, or 4 with an adult
When: Saturdays, Oct. 5 and Oct. 12

The Bell Garden serves as a teaching and learning lab for volunteers, students of Bellevue Middle Prep, and the community. Volunteers can do a variety of things, including sow seeds and harvest plants, water and weed, work in the greenhouse, tend the chicken flock, and can and preserve fruits and veggies. The garden runs on volunteer power, and no experience is necessary.

2. Serve meals to nourish those in need

St. John’s United Methodist Church
Minimum age: 18, or 13 with an adult
When: Thursday, Oct. 10

Thursday Night Community Meals at St. Johns UMC offer free, nutritious meals in a safe, friendly, and caring environment to a diverse group of clients at risk of hunger and some experiencing homelessness. Volunteers help with last-minute preparations, serving the meal, helping clean up, and socializing with diners.

3. Maintain a Nashville treasure while learning about history

The Nashville City Cemetery Association
Minimum age: 18, or 16 with an adult
When: Saturday, Oct. 12

Enjoy the peacefulness of the Nashville City Cemetery while working to restore the grounds and prepare for winter. By clearing brush, weeding, and raking leaves, volunteers will help preserve a historical landmark, and show respect to an important piece of Nashville history. The Nashville City Cemetery Association, Inc., was formed in 1998 to protect, preserve, restore, and raise public awareness of the Nashville City Cemetery. Bring drinking water, gloves, and any gardening tools you have!

4. Take tickets at the Nashville Film Festival

The Nashville Film Festival
Minimum age: 16
When: Thursday, Oct. 3, through Saturday, Oct. 12

Lights, camera, action! The Nashville Film Festival is casting A-list volunteers to assist at its annual festival. Volunteers will usher guests to their seats, collect and distribute ballots for film judging, set up and tear down, check credentials for VIP areas and ticketed events, and provide light cleaning of theaters and VIP areas. Plus: Volunteers receive festival vouchers.

 5. Feed and socialize with school-aged children

Martha O’Bryan Center
Minimum age: 18, or 12 with an adult
When: Mondays, Oct. 7 through Nov. 18

Interact with children and families while serving a hot meal to those in the middle of a food desert. Martha O’Bryan’s Family Resource Center hosts Kid’s Café every Monday for those in need. Volunteers will help set up, serve food, and try and make the community comfortable while they share a meal together.

6. Advocate for recycling at the Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party

Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party
Minimum age: 15, or 12 with an adult
When: Saturday, Oct. 5

Help make the Pickin’ Party waste free by assisting attendees in correctly sorting their food waste into the compost bin, and all recyclables into the recycling bin. With volunteers’ help,  80 percent of waste can be recycled into new materials. Training will be provided prior to the event. The Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party combines the tastes and talents of East Nashville to help preserve one of the city’s most unique landmarks, the Cornelia Fort AirPark.

7. Cheer on cyclists with Bike MS

Bike MS
Minimum age: 12
When: Saturday, Oct. 5

Smiling faces and encouragement are needed for the Bike to Jack & Back bicycle ride. Volunteers will also help with setup, teardown, and food service. Bike MS is the fundraising cycling series of the National MS Society, and to date, has raised more than $1.3 billion to end Multiple Sclerosis.

8. Offer support at the Nashville AIDS Walk

Nashville CARES
Minimum age: 18, or 5 with an adult
When: Friday and Saturday, Oct. 4 and 5

Offering a full day of activities, the 28th annual Nashville AIDS Walk needs event volunteers. In addition to celebrating the amazing work of Nashville CARES, volunteers are asked to help set up, register walkers, hand out water, and offer assistance as hundreds of supporters come out to bring awareness to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Middle Tennessee. The Nashville AIDS walk is a family-friendly event that has raised more than $3 million for the cause. Pre-registered volunteers receive a T-shirt and lunch.

9. Create crafts with The Family Center

The Family Center
Minimum age: 18, or 1 with an adult
When: Saturday, Oct. 5

Grab your glitter and start crafting with The Family Center to make calm-down bottles for their clients. Volunteers will fill bottles with water and glitter to act as a calming mechanism. The Family Center works to break multi-generational cycles of child abuse, neglect, and trauma by providing a safe, supportive space where parents and/or their children can connect and grow.

 

HON Community Partners: Do YOU have family-friendly volunteer opportunities during Fall Break (Oct. 5-13) that aren’t featured here? Let us know so we can add them!