Tennessee Resettlement Aid (TRA) is an organization that began out of compassion. In 2021, founder Katie Finn found herself in the Nashville airport baggage claim area watching refugees arrive with very few belongings begin their lives in Middle Tennessee. She began brainstorming solutions and quickly joined together with Saleem Tahiri and Julie Pine to begin the Tennessee Resettlement Aid.
TRA is dedicated to meeting the needs of Afghan refugees as they adjust to a new country and new lifestyle. When refugees first arrive in Nashville they are given a federal stipend to spend on clothing, food, and any other needs individuals may have. However, this is not enough to sustain families in the long run, which is where the Tennessee Resettlement Aid steps in.
The organization provides immediate aid to families by giving them food, clothes, English as Secondary Language (ESL) classes, medical and immigration advocacy, transportation, and more. Since its founding, the need for the TRA has only grown to respond to an already overwhelmed resettlement infrastructure. More than 500 Afghan allies have arrived in Nashville, with many more expected in the coming months.
To date, TRA has provided 37 Wi-Fi installations in family homes, 60 bicycles, home goods for 95 families, and 12 washers and dryers installed in refugee’s homes.
Each week, TRA and its volunteers provide culturally appropriate meals to more than 400 families
We’re so grateful to welcome the TRA as a Hands On Nashville partner and hope our volunteers can continue to support their ongoing efforts! Click here to learn more.
Organization: Tennessee Resettlement Aid
Impact area: Immigrant and Refugee Services
Mission: Tennessee Resettlement Aid provides direct assistance to our Afghan allies and their families to bridge the gaps in the present refugee resettlement system. They give newly arrived people food, clothing, and household items that are appropriate for their culture, as well as make it easier for them to access other services through partner organizations.
At Jackson National Life Insurance Company (Jackson®), volunteerism is an integral part of this company’s mission and culture. Through their corporate philanthropy efforts of prioritizing employee volunteerism, Jackson and Hands On Nashville have a longtime partnership supporting Middle Tennessee’s greatest needs. This is the third consecutive year Jackson is serving as the Presenting Sponsor for the annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards.
Their dedication to the Strobel Awards aligns with one of Jackson’s core values, to positively impact the community.
“At Jackson, service is an important part of our culture,” says Niya Moon, Corporate Philanthropy Manager at Jackson. “Our employee-engagement program, Jackson in Action, empowers team members to donate their skills and time through volunteerism, and the Strobel volunteer stories of what amazing things can come from a year of service are truly inspiring. We’re honored to be the presenting sponsor for such a wonderful event.”
In addition to championing volunteerism, both with the Strobel Awards and among their employees, Jackson explored different ways to collaborate with others and help change communities for the better over the past year.
In 2021, Jackson invested more than $4.88 million in communities where their associates work and live, with $1.19 million being invested in Tennessee.
The company and its associates donated $2.19 million through its matching gifts program.
Associates volunteered 11,535 hours nationally last year. (Keeping in mind adjusted volunteer engagement due to covid precautions.)
Jackson awarded $100,000 over two years to Conexión Américas to fund and support its financial empowerment programs, as well as supporting Conexión’s commitment to providing direct services to the Latino community throughout the pandemic.
April is Financial Literacy Month, as well as National Volunteer Month, two pillars of Jackson’s strong service commitment. In 2017, the Jackson Charitable Foundation was established with a mission to advance financial education across the United States. They began working with Junior Achievement USA and Discovery Education to encourage financial education at an early age. Jackson engages with students across the country through their signature program, Cha-ChingTM Money Smart Kids.
Entering their five-year anniversary, the Foundation has educated more than 10 million students and continues to sponsor 100 high schools annually to utilize finEDge, an educational initiative developed by the University of Chicago. Read more about the foundation’s work here.
“It’s a great privilege for the Foundation to continue our mission, listening, learning and supporting the important work of our partners, advancing financial education across the United States,” says Danielle Robinson, Executive Director at Jackson Charitable Foundation. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to help educate young minds and allow these students to get a head start in planning for a successful financial future.”
Hands On Nashville also thanks Jackson for their support and dedication to meeting our community’s needs.
For more information about Jackson and their commitment to service, click here.
Jackson National Life Insurance Company is committed to helping clarify the complexity of retirement planning for its customers. Jackson’s range of annuity products, financial know-how, history of award-winning service, and streamlined experiences strive to reduce the confusion that complicates retirement plans. As part of their award-winning Corporate Philanthropy program, Jackson invests nearly $1.2 million annually in nonprofit and community causes in Middle Tennessee.
We all know Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate your loved ones. But, instead of flowers and chocolates, we thought we would share a few ways you can show some love to your community with those you love. These opportunities are great for your friends, family, or that special someone!
Check out our list here:
Sort and bundle baby clothes with There With Care Middle Tennessee When: Ongoing
Organize donations, bundle baby clothes, and help create grocery support care bags with There with Care. Spread love to new families in your community! 👶💗
Deliver Care Packages to Families at local Children’s Hospitals When: Ongoing
There with Care Middle Tennessee is looking for volunteers to deliver care kits to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and to The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial. Additional training and a background check is required.
Package hygiene kits with the Community Resource Center When: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14
Everyone should have the ability to look and smell their best, especially on Valentine’s Day! Spend a few hours with a loved one packaging relief and hygiene kits at the CRC, which are delivered to eight counties across Middle Tennessee.
Share a Hobby or Skill with the residents of Dismas House When: Ongoing
Looking to show off a special skill with your significant other? Volunteering will surely impress them! You can share a hobby or skill together or individually with the residents of Dismas House. Activities can range from cooking a delicious meal together to singing, acting, or whatever your passion is! Activities can be shared in person or over Zoom.
Food Delivery to Afghan Refugees with The Branch When: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14
Explore Nashville with your Valentine while doing good for our neighbors in need! The Branch of Nashville is looking for volunteers to pick up pre-made boxes of food and deliver them to Afghan families at local apartment complexes.
Modify Homes for Children with Disabilities with Tucker’s House When: Ongoing
Get your hands dirty with your Valentine by remodeling a home to meet specific needs for children with disabilities! Volunteers with construction experience are needed to help with demo, framing, trim, building ramps, and more. General volunteers are also needed to help with demolition, construction clean up, and painting.
Be a friendly face and provide assistance to guests at FiftyForward When: 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays
FiftyForward is looking for folks to assist with their adult day services! Volunteers will greet guests as they arrive, assist with meal services, and provide socialization and one-on-one support during activities. Show some love to the older adult community and warm your own heart in the process.
By Sophia Bobrowsky, AmeriCorps Volunteer Project Leader with Hands On Nashville
Once recovery began following the March 2021 flooding, Hands On Nashville and our disaster partners set a goal — rebuilding 30 homes within a year of the flood. On Nov. 5, we celebrated another milestone toward that goal by completing our latest home rebuild, just in time for the holidays!
Walking up to the Inspiritus construction site for the last time, I was greeted by Robert Zavala, the contractor who has overseen the home construction for the past three months. He’s contracted through Inspiritus, a nonprofit that offers disaster relief and long-term recovery solutions to people in need.
I stood in the kitchen of the newly remodeled home in awe as NCCC members steadily cleaned around me. A dozen or so members were busy wiping dust from the trim, and putting the final screws in kitchen cabinets.
Robert chuckled at my excitement, and was quick to credit all the volunteers for their hard work.
“NCCC is absolutely wonderful, I love them to death,” Robert said. “They come with a big crew and get everything knocked out very fast. It’s nice to have a crew you can train, and that works together for a longer period of time.”
Robert explained NCCC didn’t come with formal training, but like volunteers who sign up for Inspiritus projects, they’re excited to learn, and always give 100 percent. Together, volunteer teams rebuilt this home from the ground up — the walls were gutted, the flooring torn out, and the HVAC system had to be completely cleaned and repaired.
Of the projects, the flooring took the longest, Robert said. From ripping up the flooring to repairing the subfloor and then laying new tile — it’s a tedious process that takes time to be done right.
Robert is the only Inspiritus construction manager in Tennessee, and he assists in matching volunteers with projects that are safe , sources and purchases materials for home repairs, and trains the volunteers completing the work.
Following my talk with Robert, I continued to explore the house and see what my fellow AmeriCorps members were working on. I spoke with Marisa Switzman, a Team Lead with Americorps NCCC.
NCCC is different than the traditional Americorps program I am currently participating in, as this cohort travels the country for 10 months, spending no more than a few weeks in each city they visit. NCCC members meet community needs in the areas of energy conservation, infrastructure improvement, natural and other disaster services, and urban and rural development.
Marisa said she said she really enjoys the hands-on experience of NCCC, and learning so many different life and teambuilding skills.
“It’s been super rewarding to give back to the community and to specific people like this homeowner,” Marisa said. “That’s why we joined NCCC because it’s all about that:, giving back. The most challenging part is making mistakes — but that’s part of the learning process, and Robert has shown us mistakes are really easy to fix.”
Zach King, also an NCCC member, was serving alongside Marisa, and agreed about the construction skills. This is the first construction project he’s attempted during his term, and said so far each site has presented a different set of challenges.
“In terms of the whole year — Mammoth Cave was the most physically demanding, but NOLA was emotionally demanding,” Zach said.
His cohort spent the first month of their term rebuilding hiking trails at Mammoth Cave, Ky., and the following few weeks offering relief to survivors of Hurricane Ida in New Orleans. For the next few weeks Zach and his team will stay in Davidson County continuing to support disaster relief efforts in South Nashville.
“So far my term has been super good — in NOLA everyone was super thankful, and the people were very vocal about that. In Mammoth [Cave] our work was lasting as the trails will be used by hikers for a while. However, here it’s massive for this homeowner to have a house to get into by Thanksgiving,” Zach said. “That’s incredible, and a really cool goal to have someone in their house by the holidays.”
We are extremely gratefulto VOAD and CFMT for providing the funding to HON and our partnering organizations to assist in flood-relief efforts. To read more about their impact, click here.
NCCC is a federally-funded program that Hands On Nashville applied for and was granted following the March flooding. For more information about NCCC, click here. To volunteer for a disaster relief project, click here.
1. Connect with survivors who may still need support: Small groups of volunteers will canvass flood-affected neighborhoods on Nov. 12. We especially need Spanish speakers to ensure we can connect with as many families as possible!
2. Rebuild homes with Inspiritus: Volunteers will help residents rebuild homes impacted by the flood. Activities range from painting, flooding, installing drywall and insulation. Training is provided with on-site leadership.
3. Use your skills or form a group to help with the rebuilding effort: As recovery and rebuilding continues we need skilled construction volunteers as well as groups of volunteers who can help with demolition, construction, and community outreach.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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!
Since 2007, employees at Jackson National Life Insurance Company (Jackson®) have donated more than 290,000 volunteer hours to improving their communities. Their philanthropy program is engrained in their company’s values, and has continued to grow since the company’s inception nearly 60 years ago.
Jackson’s employee-engagement program, Jackson in Action, empowers team members to donate their skills and time through volunteer opportunities each month. Their volunteers are regulars with Hands On Nashville, whether it’s individually led projects or groups of volunteers assisting through our Corporate Partner Program.
“We work with organizations to help strengthen families and create economic opportunities in areas where we operate,” says Niya Moon, the manager of Corporate Philanthropy at Jackson. “Popular volunteer activities range from assisting with meal preparation and distribution to address food insecurity to teaching financial literacy principles and offering career exploration opportunities to youth.”
Jackson has partnered with HON as the Presenting Sponsor for the annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards for multiple years, a role they have graciously accepted to assist in honoring some of Middle Tennessee’s greatest volunteers.
“One of Jackson’s core values is to positively impact our community, and we believe our corporate culture and employees should contribute to the greater good of society,” Moon says. “We are honored to be among so many other businesses, foundations, groups, and individuals who give generously to make this community great.”
Like so many companies last year, Jackson was forced to limit its volunteer engagement when COVID-19 struck. But the company pivoted its resources, and began pursuing virtual opportunities to fundraise and conduct donation drives to support local organizations during the pandemic.
Jackson awarded grants to programs providing financial coaching and direct assistance to people facing unemployment and other economic hardship intensified by the pandemic. They also offered support to organizations that were forced to postpone or cancel significant fundraising events.
But Jackson’s generosity extends further than their fundraising. Mid-pandemic, when food insecurity was at its highest, Jackson partnered with the Nashville Food Project by opening their dining center kitchen and utilizing staff to prepare meals while following social distancing protocols. Together, they served 6,075 meals for underserved youth and seniors in the community.
“One thing I love about Nashville is how the community works together to help each other during a crisis,” Moon says. “There were so many inspiring stories of the nonprofit sector meeting critical needs of our community reeling after two concurrent disasters—a tornado and the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Following the tornado, Jackson employees volunteered 181 hours and contributed $19,620 toward recovery efforts. As the pandemic continues, Jackson has continued to extend its kindness across the community to aid wherever possible.
For more information about Jackson and their commitment to service, click here.
Jackson National Life Insurance Company® (Jackson®) is committed to helping clarify the complexity of retirement planning for its customers. Jackson’s range of annuity products, financial know-how, history of award-winning service, and streamlined experiences strive to reduce the confusion that complicates retirement plans. As part of their award-winning Corporate Philanthropy program, Jackson invests nearly $1.2 million annually in nonprofit and community causes in Middle Tennessee.
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:
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.
“Love in action is service to the world.” Lynne Namka
For some lucky locals, opening their hearts to service also opened their lives to finding love. Here are just a few of their stories, plus some volunteer opportunities that would be a great way for couples to get to know one another!
Cara and Carey
Cara Ince’s love story started when she found a volunteer opportunity in HON’s Hands On Call newsletter in 2010. She found that Nashville International Center for Empowerment was looking for volunteers to teach English as a second language, signed up, and began teaching a class. A few months later, another volunteer named Carey came on as an assistant teacher in her class.
They hit it off and volunteered together at NICE for about two years. They’ve now been married for almost seven years and have two small children.
“We still always talk about our students and have such fond memories of that time,” Cara says. “It was definitely a cool experience, and a really good way to get to know someone when you’re first starting to date.”
And while they don’t volunteer as much these days as they used to because they’re busy at home with their two children, they are beginning to talk about ways, once the pandemic is over, they could engage the whole family in volunteering.
“We want [them] to be appreciative of what we have and also to give back to other people,” Cara says.
Jordan and Kirsten
Jordan Fernandes met his future wife Kirsten as a volunteer with The Bridge Ministry, serving groceries and meals to individuals experiencing homelessness. Kirsten had just graduated college and moved back to Nashville when she decided to volunteer with some friends.
“For them it was a one-time visit, but I liked it so much that I came back again and again,” she says. During one of her shifts, while they were unloading a grocery truck, Jordan spotted Kirsten. He introduced himself not long afterwards and the two became friends. Their friendship evolved into dating, and Kirsten says they fell madly in love.
“Throughout our time getting to know each other, we always knew that we had a guaranteed date every Tuesday night serving the homeless under the Jefferson Street Bridge,” Kirsten says.
Jordan proposed in 2015 and the couple married in 2016. They’re now expecting their first child.
“Volunteering played a huge part of our story together, and volunteering in various capacities around Nashville continues to be so important to us,” Kirsten says. “It allows us to share our love beyond just our family to families and individuals throughout Nashville!”
Ava and Tristan
Ava Suppelsa was feeling helpless last summer in the wake of a deadly tornado and the pandemic. She wanted to do something tangible to help the many people in the community who were hurting. So Ava, a songwriter, started Hope on the Row, a nonprofit that connects music industry professionals with homelessness relief efforts.
Her boyfriend Tristan — also a songwriter — was a source of strength and support as she launched the nonprofit. Ava says the two of them grew up in families that emphasized giving back, so they had volunteered together over the course of their two-year relationship. But starting a nonprofit was a whole different ballgame.
“I didn’t really know exactly how much work I was getting myself into, and I wouldn’t be able to do this without Tristan,” Ava says. “He’s been there with me for every stressful, hard, frustrating, beautiful, and rewarding moment that comes with running and organization like this, and that only brought us closer.”
Now the organization serves more than 50 people each week, and helps individuals navigate the low-income housing system with a goal of getting as many people off the streets as possible.
“We’ve both seen each other at our best, truest selves that come out when you’re doing work like this,” Ava says, “and I think I speak for both of us when I say that seeing that makes you fall in love with your partner all over again.”
Patrick and Patti
When Patrick Lyons moved to Nashville in 1993, he didn’t know a soul. Then he saw a writeup in the Nashville Scene for Hands On Nashville volunteer orientation.
“I thought, ‘What a great way to meet people,’” Patrick says. He went to orientation and learned that he could volunteer in the evenings and on weekends, which fit his travel-heavy work schedule.
One day he volunteered at an event at Cheekwood, taking tickets. That’s when he met Patti, who had also found the volunteer opportunity through HON.
“We found out more about each other and talked about how hard it is to meet people,” Patti says. “Then he called me up and asked me out.”
Patti and Patrick quickly realized they both shared a heart for service.
“I knew he was a good guy because he was volunteering,” Patti says. “We knew we were like-minded people.”
“It was a pre-screening we didn’t have to do,” Patrick says, laughing.
Patrick and Patti took their relationship — and their commitment to volunteering — to the next level. Patti became HON’s executive director and Patrick served on HON’s board of directors. While Patrick and the rest of the board reached out to nonprofits to tell them about HON, Patti compiled the volunteer opportunity calendar manually by making phone calls to local organizations, typing up volunteer needs, and making copies of the calendar to distribute around town.
The couple live in Savannah, Ga., now, but they still believe in the power of giving back — volunteering, delivering meals, mentoring, serving on advisory boards. Patti says she sees HON in the news sometimes and is so proud of how the organization has grown.
Volunteering through HON is a great way to meet people in a new city, Patrick says. He found love with Patti, but he also made lifelong friends.
“The organization did wonders with putting together like-minded people,” he says. “I’ve probably got seven close friends I’m still in touch with after 26 years.”
Volunteer opportunities that would be great for dates
Looking for a way to spend some time with your sweetie over Valentine’s Day? Check out these volunteer opportunities!