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:
Applications are officially open for our upcoming cohort! The 2021-2022 Program Year runs from August 2021 to July 2022. AmeriCorps members spend a year at a local nonprofit, government department, or civic agency, where they build program capacity and receive skills and professional development training, an education award, a living stipend, and more.
Nashville is powered by people of all ages, races, ethnicities, skin tones, sexes, genders, sexualities, religions, abilities, and socioeconomic statuses engaging in service together. This is a city where YOU matter and YOU make a difference. Join us as we tackle the community’s most pressing challenges through service by becoming a Hands On Nashville AmeriCorps Program member.
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.
It’s Spring Break! With temperatures finally getting warmer and the kids home for the week (or the past year, depending on your situation), you may be going a little stir crazy looking for ways to keep them engaged while also building memories as a family. Well, we’re here to help! Below are a few options for things to do together, ranging for kids as young as 5 years old to those who are young at heart.
Here’s a quick and easy video that explains how to volunteer as a family!
Nashville Diaper Connection is looking for volunteers to help count, wrap, and package diapers. The diapers will then be labeled and organized for distribution to the Diaper Connection’s community partners. Opportunities are offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
Volunteers are essential to setting up production stations, sorting materials (like soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste) and compiling kits for distribution. These kits are then given to people in need all over the community, from tornado survivors to those currently experiencing homelessness. Opportunities are offered from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Help bring some cheer to isolated seniors by creating drawings and writing letters to those in nursing homes and those who are in disabled living facilities. Families can create their drawings at home, and after “expressing interest” in this opportunity a volunteer leader will share how to mail them. For March the theme is “Spring and Easter.” This opportunity is virtual and can be completed at any time.
The Hospital Hospitality House is looking for volunteers to graciously provide dinner to the patients and caregivers who are staying at the Hospitality House while receiving treatment in Nashville. These dinners provide comfort and a sense of community. This opportunity is offered with a flexible schedule.
Planting trees provides shade, helps filter air pollution, creates an oxygen rich environment, and reduces flooding by absorbing great amounts of groundwater. Together, families can learn how to plant and care for trees, while also joining forces to make Nashville a greener community! This opportunity is from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 20.
Help remove invasive species of plants from Ellington Agricultural Center to prepare the ground for planting. Once the invasive plants have been cleared, white oak seedlings will be planted in their place! This opportunity is from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 20
Unload donations from people’s cars and assist in getting them sorted. GraceWorks Ministries collects donations for its thrift store on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This opportunity is offered daily, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“This program is changing lives. These members are creating a greener and more equitable city. They are so passionate and we are so fortunate to have them here loving on our community.”
Nicki Avila, Hands On Nashville AmeriCorps Program Manager
It’s officially AmeriCorps Week! In the past year our AmeriCorps members have faced challenges we could never have predicted, but they continue to astound us with their positivity, ingenuity, and most importantly their commitment to service. This #AmeriCorpsWeek we’ll be featuring outstanding servant leaders from across Middle Tennessee, and showing what it’s like to #ServeLikeMe.
Join us on Instagram Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week, when three AmeriCorps members will take over our stories and give you a behind-the-scenes peek at how they serve Nashville.
When the tornadoes hit, Melissa Alexander wasted no time finding a volunteer project to help survivors.
That’s who Melissa is, though — she goes above and beyond for people, and doesn’t seem to think twice about it. That makes her among the most prolific tornado-response volunteers in HON.org’s database, having registered for dozens of projects and logged hundreds of volunteer hours.
“After the tornado hit, I knew I couldn’t just stay home,” she says. “I’m from Texas, and that’s just not what you do there. After a disaster, if someone needs your help, you just go.”
Melissa lives in Hermitage, about a block away from the path of destruction that spanned more than 60 miles overnight on March 2, 2020. She was without power for four days, and, looking back, is grateful to have had the opportunity to get out of the house and be of service to others.
She began volunteering at the Hermitage Community Center, sorting donations of apples, oranges, and other food and essentials. After about a week, when the center was running smoothly, she began looking for other ways to help. She had already attended volunteer leadership training at the Hands On Nashville headquarters. A liaison from Mayor John Cooper’s office determined she would be a great fit to begin supporting case management by alerting survivors to the resources that were available.
Melissa began canvassing the Hermitage area daily, going door to door to ask residents a series of questions:
“Are you working with a good contractor? Are they licensed?”
“Do you have your tetanus shot?”
“Do you know how to get to the community center?”
“Do you have your water and power turned on?”
It was more or less what she had been trained for, Melissa says, and she enjoyed the spark of hope residents would show when she was able to share information on a resource they were previously unaware of.
“‘They would ask, ‘Who are you with?’” and I would say, ‘Oh, I’m just a volunteer with Hands On Nashville, going around to make sure you’re aware of all of the services available in the community after a tornado.’ They loved it,” she says. “They were so grateful that somebody was just coming around and checking in on them.”
Melissa volunteered for weeks this way, reporting each morning to the city’s liaison, receiving her neighborhood assignments, then heading out with her bags of apples and oranges to distribute throughout the community. She estimates she spent more than 300 hours volunteering over the course of three months.
One day in particular stands out to Melissa — the day she was reassigned to North Nashville, on March 27. Rain was moving into the area, and the city needed additional help identifying houses that needed tarps.
“I went to Project Connect Nashville and started volunteering over there, four days a week, for about three months,” she says. “I’m still pretty committed to Project Connect. They do a lot for that North Nashville community.”
Once in North Nashville, Melissa says she found strength in the community to keep coming back day after day. The work was tiring, but, without fail, each morning when she arrived, there would be 30 people waiting outside Project Connect’s doors for a hot meal.
“When you see that many people waiting to get a hot meal, you can’t just say no,” Melissa says. “And the people were so eager for help. They wanted to know what resources were available or how to do something.”
And that’s how Melissa met Mary.
“She’s the lady who made me cry on my first day,” Melissa says. “A neighbor had called to bring her meals, and I was the first one to have checked up on her since the storm. That day she was upset because her FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) request was denied, and she just bawled.”
Melissa bonded with Mary, who is 83 years old, right away. She worked to get Mary’s phone back in service, reinstall her security light, and create some raised garden beds for her. They still talk or text regularly.
“I even helped her organize the inside of her house, and we shredded papers for three days,” Melissa says. “She kept everything. She had checkbooks from the ’80s. So I helped her shred papers, and it was so fun. Older people have the best stories.”
Throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns, Melissa continued to work with Project Connect. She’s an avid mask-wearer, and says she practiced good hygiene long before the pandemic, crediting her work as a behavioral analyst who often worked with clients with auto-immune disorders. She says the Red Cross and Project Connect were thorough with their protocols, and that she never felt unsafe while volunteering.
Melissa’s background has proved invaluable throughout her time volunteering. Being from Texas, she was familiar with disaster response and FEMA, and by working with lower-income families she’s also familiar with food-assistance and housing programs. As Project Connect transitioned their services to working mainly from the resource center, Melissa jokes that she became known as the “resource guru.” To this day she has about 60 bookmarks — in multiple languages — stored in her phone to offer to people for help.
“You always have a skill,” she says, “and you always have something you can do that goes toward something that someone else needs.”
And while the recovery process has spanned the past year, Melissa knows there’s still more recovery and healing that needs to happen.
“There’s so many houses still not touched,” she says. “You can drive through Hermitage now and see the changes. But in North, there’s still boards on the windows, tarps on the roofs. There’s still so much work to be done.”
Tornado survivors can get access to a variety of resources and support through the Tornado Recovery Connection. If you know any tornado survivors, please make sure they know to call TRC at 615-270-9255.
It’s here — our guide to where you can donate items this holiday season to help out many of our partner nonprofits! We’ve rounded up some of their most urgent needs at the link below. From books to gloves to hearing aids, no donation is too small.
This category of the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards recognizes representatives of civic, membership, faith-based or non-corporate groups that volunteer together for a specific cause or issue.
This year’s finalists are:
Volunteers at Youth Villages
During their visits to the Youth Villages Wallace Group Home, Chicktime members spend their time getting to know the girls, providing emotional support, love, and life skills — paired with a little bit of fun.
There are 10 young women at Wallace Group Home who have been separated from their families by the State of Tennessee and are awaiting reunification or a foster home placement. Each month, Chicktime volunteers visit the girls, and provide all of the supplies, food, and their “chick power” to brighten the girls’ day. Activites range from crafts and poetry, to karaoke nights and visits to local farms.
“The Chicktime members are dedicated to not just serving foster youth, but they are dedicated to serving teens in the foster care system that have a history of abuse, neglect, and/or trauma, and that do not generally trust or respect adults,” said Julie Abbott, the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator with Youth Villages. “The members come back month after month to a revolving group of youth and continue to shower the girls with love, understanding, and patience.”
Holly Stewart and Stephanie Mullenax, Co-founders of the Chicktime Nashville chapter, serve to lay the path for everyone who wants to make a difference in children’s lives by bringing women together to serve.
“We enter these girls’ lives as caring members of the community focused on restoration and just doing what we can to bring a bright spot into their lives,” Stewart says.
Friends Life Community
Volunteers at FiftyForward
Every Thursday and Friday, a smiling, energized group from Friends Life Community delivers meals, provides safety checks, and socializes with homebound senior adults through FiftyForward’s Fresh/Meals on Wheels program.
Through their weekly service, Friends Life Community members are delivering more than food — they’re offering a friendly face, andbuilding a relationship with FiftyForward’s clients.
Friends Life Community members are teenagers and adults with disabilities who participate in service-learning activities in order tobuild valuable employment skills and share their talents and time with local nonprofits.
For 80-year-old Alberta, Friday is one of the most exciting days of the week.
“The beautiful group that delivers my meals on Fridays is a joy in my life,” Alberta said. “I always give them a peppermint and let them know how much I look forward to them delivering my meal each Friday. I’ve even found myself getting up earlier to get dressed nicely so I can spend time talking with them!”
The consistency and dependability shown by Friends Life Communitymembers gives Meals On Wheels participants an abundance ofjoy and encouragement, as well as show that they are not alone.
Tennessee Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy
Volunteers at the American Liver Foundation-Mid South Division
When at the Tennessee Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy (TNVCA) cadets learned what it meant to be a part of the Volunteer State through discipline, structure, education, and service.
The mission of the TNVCA was to intervene in and reclaim the lives of at-risk youth and produce program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens of Tennessee.
During the 2018 and 2019 Liver Life Walks for the American Liver Foundation (ALF), cadets proved to themselves and to their mentors that they were ready and willing to serve.
Cadets helped with a variety of tasks, from setup and teardown to parking cars and refilling water stations. One thing most appreciated about these cadets was their willingness to help with a variety of tasks, even things other volunteers didn’t care to do.
“They are always courteous and willing to do the work, which makde them a delight to have as a volunteer group,” said Teresa Davidson, the National Director of Engagement at ALF-Mid-South.
Cadets at the TNVCA are not only helping with the Liver Life Walk but learning how to be a part of their community and serve other nonprofits in the future.
Note: Unfortunately, due to funding restrictions in light of COVID-19, TNVCA has been permanently shuttered. Learn more here.
By Ben PiñonHON 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.”
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.”
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.
When a tornado devastated parts of Nashville on March 3, 2020, leaders at the Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group knew they wanted to do something big to help with the recovery effort. The company donated $120,000 — its largest ever one-time gift — to Hands On Nashville to support its mission to meet community needs through volunteerism.
“We have been following along with Hands On Nashville’s efforts for years,” says John Gallagher, Vice President and Executive General Manager of Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group. “And knowing that recovery from the devastating tornados would take months — if not years —we knew it would require lots of volunteer hours. Hands On Nashville seemed like the perfect fit for our donation.”
The donation directly supports ongoing tornado-relief efforts, including paying for supplies and staff salaries spent on disaster-recovery activities.
“The support from the Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group is a game-changer for our tornado-relief efforts,” says HON President and CEO Lori Shinton. “Those funds are going directly to recruit and manage volunteers who are doing the important work of helping people put their lives back together after a major disaster.”
For more than 25 years, Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group has had an active role supporting Middle Tennessee charities.
From being the first corporation to enroll in Waves Office Recycling Program, to assisting those who lost their vehicles in the 2010 flood, to now supplying personal protective equipment to Williamson Medical Center – DWAG aims to be a company that cares about helping others.
Hometown Heroes is a program honoring those who have shown a commitment to serving others and making a difference in their community. Community members nominate individuals, and each month a new hero is selected by DWAG, which makes a $500 donation to the charity of that hero’s choice.
“One thing we learned through our Hometown Heroes event is just how many amazing people are at work in our communities, and how they are making a difference in big ways,” Gallagher says.
This spring DWAG had planned to celebrate their 100th hero, but, due to COVID-19, plans have been tentatively postponed until May 2021.
The company created Drive Away Hunger in 2013 as a fundraising event partnering with Williamson County high schools and GraceWorks. Through Drive Away Hunger, hundreds of thousands of pounds of food have been collected and donated to food pantries throughout Williamson County. The initiative has since expanded to include the Franklin Special School District and Williamson County elementary and middle schools.
“We are so proud of all we have done in the community, and thankful for our customers who make it all possible,” Gallagher said.
The automotive group’s first dealership – Darrell WaltripHonda – opened in 1986. Since then, they’ve opened three more dealerships across Middle Tennessee.
For more information about Darrell Waltrip Automotive Group’s history of service, click here.