Tag Archives: Volunteerism

How to help Kentucky flood survivors

With historic flood damage and brutal heat affecting those in Eastern Kentucky, we know Nashville is looking for ways to help.

YAIPack Outreach, a member of the Nashville VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), is collecting donations for survivors and first responders at 1255 Paradise Hill Road, Clarksville, TN.

Inspiritus, also active in the Nashville VOAD, is looking for volunteers willing to travel to Kentucky to offer aid. Those interested in this opportunity can contact Sherry Buresh at 859-353-2243 or email her at sherry.buresh@weinspirit.org.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (center) met with Inspiritus volunteers at the Volunteer Reception Center in Wayland Floyd County to provide encouragement to responders and survivors alike. (Photo by Inspiritus)

The Inspiritus Disaster Response team is currently on the ground in Eastern Kentucky running the Volunteer Reception Center and coordinating volunteer efforts.

Other local organizations offering relief are The FootPrint Project, Kentucky Red Cross, and the Christian Appalachian Project. They need monetary donations, as well as volunteers.

This is a reminder that disasters can occur without warning. Hands On Nashville and our partners are always preparing for whatever may come our way.

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!)

Partner Spotlight: Tennessee Resettlement Aid 

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

The Tennessee Resettlement Aid was founded in 2021 to offer additional services to Afghan refugees entering Tennessee.

 
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.  

Contact Information: Email info@tennesseeresettlementaid.org 

Donations & Volunteer opportunities: tennesseeresettlementaid.org 

Savage volunteers at Shelby Park

Another great volunteer project completed with Friends of Shelby Park! Five hundred #SavageStrong volunteers came out on June 24 to build picnic tables, assemble fences, and help beautify the park! We’re so grateful for all their hard work! Please see the pictures below for an overview of the day.
Photos by Ademola Ogunnaike.

Want to volunteer with your team? Learn more here!

Lori Shinton, the CEO of Hands On Nashville and Board Chair with Nashville VOAD, talks with a volunteer following the March 2020 Tornado.

A word from our CEO: How Nashville’s volunteer group is prepared to support city through any disaster 

When tornadoes ripped through Tennessee in the middle of the night on March 3, 2020, the devastated Nashville community scrambled to respond. Helpers came out in droves with chainsaws, supplies, food, and donations. Hands On Nashville alone saw more than 20,000 volunteers in the week after the tornado.   

Lori Shinton, CEO of Hands On Nashville and Board Chair of Nashville VOAD.

The city relies on me, as the CEO of Hands On Nashville, and my team to lead volunteer efforts after a disaster. It’s what we do.  

Following the tornado, we immediately snapped into action to lead these efforts – our first disaster response effort since 2010. Our 15-person team worked around the clock to connect volunteers with needed resources. We were inundated with emails, phone calls, and walk-ins from folks wanting to or needing help. For a week, we had about 30 – 50 administrative volunteers helping us with all those things, often late into the evening. It was a challenging, heartfelt, and sometimes chaotic effort. 

Since then, we’ve dedicated significant resources to disaster preparation, hiring a full-time Disaster Response Manager, and creating a comprehensive emergency response plan, which relies on Disaster Volunteer Leaders (DVL). If you are interested in supporting the city when the next disaster strikes, please sign up to be a DVL and take our free online training. 

Recognizing that Hands On Nashville is stronger when we are connected with key players in the disaster response realm, I also advocated for the reformation of the Nashville VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), reached out to key community members, and now chair the volunteer-led coalition. The group strengthens area-wide disaster coordination and preparedness by sharing programs, policies and information while engaging in joint planning, education, and training. 

The VOAD’s first activations came after the Christmas Day bombing in 2020 and the South Nashville flood in 2021. Our mighty group of 41 nonprofits now stands ready to respond to whatever comes next. We also recognize that bringing in key neighborhood leaders, including those at religious institutions and neighborhood nonprofits, is critical to the success of disaster recovery. 

Disaster response is exhaustive work, and our community has been stretched thin over the past two years. The sad truth is that it is difficult to convince people to dedicate resources to disaster preparation when there is not a disaster at hand, but disaster prep work is crucial to disaster response, and any support you can give will help us as we continue to do the work.  

Hands on Nashville is so grateful to the amazing volunteers in this city and is up to the challenge of coordinating whatever crisis comes our way. We stand ready to provide services and to support our friends and neighbors when the next disaster hits — whether it is severe weather or, perish the thought, something like a shooting or bombing. We are #nashvillestrong, and we’ll get through it together.  

-Lori 

Lori Shinton is President and CEO of Hands On Nashville and the Chair of Nashville VOAD. For a full list of Nashville VOAD member organizations, visit NashvilleResponds.com. 

Hands On Nashville announces 2022 Strobel Volunteer Awards recipients

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 13, 2022) – Middle Tennesseans were honored today for their volunteerism during Hands On Nashville’s 36th annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, presented by Jackson National Life Insurance Company® (Jackson®). Recipients were announced in an intimate ceremony that was also live-streamed on HON’s social media channels.

The Strobel Awards honor volunteers of all ages and backgrounds for their significant service to their communities, and celebrates the life of Mary Catherine Strobel, a Nashvillian who displayed an outstanding dedication to service. This marks the first in-person Strobel Awards ceremony in two years.

“Last year was a difficult one for Nashville residents as we all navigated flooding, COVID-19 and more; but these individuals recognized a need and filled it through their volunteer work,” said Lori Shinton, president and CEO of Hands On Nashville. “We are honored to join together to celebrate the incredible service exhibited by these volunteers and recognize the impact of their efforts in our community at this year’s Strobel Awards.”

Community members submitted more than 140 nominations for the 2022 Strobel Volunteer Awards, each of whom displayed the spirit of volunteerism. The public was invited to vote for their favorite stories of service and a panel of judges selected the seven award recipients, who will receive a $1,000 gift card to give to the charity of their choice. The other 14 finalists will receive $250 to donate to charity.

“Congratulations to all Strobel Awards recipients,” said Niya Moon, manager of corporate philanthropy at Jackson. “Your heart for service continues to make Nashville a better place to live. We are thrilled to join Hands On Nashville and others in our community in acknowledging the resilience of volunteers during an extremely challenging year.”

The award recipients are as follows:

  • Direct Service – Youth Volunteer: JohnThomas Atema
  • Direct Service – Adult Volunteer: Kimberly Webb
  • Direct Service – Older Adult Volunteer: Vera Coleman
  • Group Volunteer Service Award: Congregation of Alameda Christian Church
  • Capacity-Building Volunteer Award: Susanne Shepherd Post
  • Social Justice Impact Award: Linda McFadyen-Ketchum
  • Disaster Relief Volunteer Award: Hispanic Outreach Task Force

About the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards

The Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards are named in memory of the late Mary Catherine Strobel, known for her extensive and charitable efforts toward improving the lives of Middle Tennessee’s unhoused, underserved, and disenfranchised communities. The annual awards ceremony celebrates her service and recognizes those who continue her legacy. For more information, visit HON.org/strobel_awards.

About Hands On Nashville

Hands On Nashville (HON) builds capacity for individuals and agencies to meet needs through service. Its programs connect volunteers to opportunities supporting 200-plus nonprofits, schools and other civic organizations; help these partners reimagine volunteer potential; and bring awareness to the challenges facing the people and places in our community. HON also partners with the city to coordinate volunteers whenever there is a disaster. For more information, visit HON.org or call 615-298-1108.

Thank you to our generous sponsors!

Improving the community is the heart of Jackson’s commitment to service

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.”

A group of Jackson team members volunteer at a local park.

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

Jackson volunteers sort toys for a local nonprofit.

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.

About Jackson

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.

Strobel Finalists 2022: Direct Service — Adult

Congratulations to these three finalists in the Direct Service—Adult category of the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until April 30 at the button below!

Greg O’Loughlin

Greg O’Loughlin
Volunteers with the Oasis Center 

Nine years ago, Greg O’Loughlin joined Oasis, a nonprofit that helps young people in Middle Tennessee transition into a successful and content adulthood. He became a volunteer within Oasis’ bike workshop, where young Metro school students can pick out a bike and learn how to both build and maintain it. In 2014, O’Loughlin and manager Dan Furbish wanted to advance the program and launched the Oasis Mountain Bike Team, which coaches kids to practice and compete on bike courses all over the state.  

With hundreds of hours of service dedicated to Oasis’ bike workshop, O’Loughlin has acted as not only a teacher, but a mentor to over 120 of the students the organization works with each year in partnership with Nashville schools and community centers. The bike team has continued to be successful with national coverage from media outlet NPR that led to recognition in the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Broadcasting. O’Loughlin’s first public school mountain bike team consisted of eight international Metro Nashville Public School students from El Salvador, Mexico and Egypt. Since then, he has continued to help connect the mountain bike team and the bike workshop to STEM teachers across Nashville schools. As the director of the Educator’s Cooperative, O’Loughlin has also applied his knowledge to go the extra mile for the students by helping bring attention to the bike program across the Nashville area.  

O’Loughlin has continued to be a reliable resource for the students he champions alongside students on the mountain bike team. Last year, the Oasis Bike Workshop was granted the Max Barry Fund, which was used to take the mountain bike team to the Appalachian Mountains on a three-day camping trip. With such responsibility and dedication to students, “Greg helped me ensure the children’s safety on some pretty treacherous terrain in a certified wilderness area with no cellphone service and miles from emergency help. My mind was at ease knowing that I could rely on Greg had an emergency occurred,” shared Furbish, co-coach of the mountain bike team.  


Kimberly Webb

Kimberly Webb
Volunteers with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) 

Kimberly Webb is no stranger to volunteering with children as she has been a mentor, advocate and peer to children at the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for the past decade, serving over 17 children and teens. At home, she continues to serve children as a foster mother who has provided a home and a safe environment for over 20 children.  

Eleven years ago, Webb joined the volunteer team at CASA Nashville as a peer coordinator and volunteer advocate and currently serves three additional youth in foster care. As a volunteer who prioritizes the relational aspect of serving, she is known to make children feel individually cared for and heard. Webb’s colleagues have said that she is a dependable and consistent role model to the organization and children as she steps into a gap wherever she can. Her services have no limitation on distance and cost, as she has continued to visit, deliver snacks and spend time with former Nashville-residing children who have grown up and moved to different cities and states.  

In 2020, Webb lost her 20-year-old son, David, in an unexpected and tragic accident. Amid her grief, she remained faithful to her commitment to advocacy work to the children of Tennessee. As she is a foster mother and children’s advocacy volunteer, all her services and volunteer work are motivated by her son. Webb further leaned into the volunteer opportunities at CASA even more after the loss of her son by taking on the role of peer coordinator, mentoring new CASA volunteers, continuing to open her home to foster children and working on two cases as a CASA volunteer advocate.   “I didn’t expect CASA volunteer work to be so involved when I joined 11 years ago. CASA really makes a difference when a child or teen sees your face. Other adults come in and out of their lives, both family members and professionals; but seeing a face they recognize and trust makes all the difference,” Webb shared.


Lina Londoño Tinsley

Lina Londoño Tinsley
Volunteers with Conexión Américas 

As a global marketing manager and life coach at Conexión Américas, Lina Londoño Tinsley has provided many Latino community members with advice to help them obtain the fulfilling life many strive to achieve. Tinsley has volunteered with members of the adult Latino community and is continuing to help them navigate their business, discover their passions and find their voice.  

Conexión Américas is a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for Latino families to succeed, and Tinsley’s work consistently continues to be one of the most highly attended and engaged classes throughout the program, even during virtual classes for the past two years. Tinsley continues to receive rave reviews from her students that exemplify her ability to connect with others authentically as well as impart powerful guidance that leads small-business owners in the right direction. As a mentor who empowers the women of the Latino community, Tinsley has encouraged the community to do the controversial among the community and take risks to pursue their passion. Tinsley has created a bridge between herself and her students by emphasizing the importance of prioritizing mental health within her classes. This holistic approach has granted students the space and environment to fully trust and act on Tinsley’s advice with their small businesses.   Tinsley continues to have a huge impact on the members and students of Conexión Américas, specifically on a student who began the Negocio Prospero program at the nonprofit. Tinsley’s guidance and support to the young student helped her create a business model that capitalized on her strength of cooking. The student now owns a successful catering business that Tinsley helped guide her toward not just personally, but professionally. 

To see a full list of the nominees for the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.

Strobel Finalists 2022: Disaster Relief

Congratulations to these three finalists in the Disaster Relief category of the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until April 30 at the button below!

Hispanic Outreach Task Force
(Marcela Gomez)

Hispanic Outreach Task Force
Volunteers with Hands On Nashville, offers assistance to Latino community in need

In the aftermath of the March 2021 flood, south Nashville was in particular need of disaster relief. While there were many volunteer organizations making recovery efforts at the time, it was quickly realized that a task force of community members who could understand and navigate the cultural nuances of the largely Latino community was needed. This task force consisted of Diane Janbakhsh, Jennifer Novo, Veronica Selcedo, Wendy Silva, Karla Vazaquez and Veronica Zavaleta, all well-known and influential community members. The team immediately crafted a plan to reach members of the Latino community who were in need and let them know that relief was available.

Before the Hispanic Outreach Task Force was assembled, only a handful of Latino residents felt comfortable reaching out for help; after several outreach events and media pushes conducted by the team, over 300 requests for disaster relief from homeowners and renters in the area were received, allowing volunteers to mobilize and help residents. Without this task force, many members of the Latino community in south Nashville would not have had a trusted avenue to reach out for help with disaster recovery. Although the members of the task force didn’t expect any recognition for their work, they are honored to be nominated. “Offering the talents and skills life has given you for the service of others is an honor,” said Marcela Gomez, who was instrumental in assembling the task force. “You don’t volunteer with the mindset that you will get something back; you volunteer because you are grateful to be alive.”


Emergency Support Unit volunteers

Emergency Support Unit
Nashville Office of Emergency Management

During Nashville’s tremendous rainfall and historic flash flooding in March 2021, crews were quickly needed to help rescue residents who had been trapped in dangerous situations. That’s when the Emergency Support Unit (ESU), a team of roughly 30 community members ranging from CEOs to teachers, mobilized. This team volunteered their extensive training to help Nashvillians in need.

When Nashville started flooding, this team, several of whom are trained specifically in flood and swift-water response, put their skills to use and saved dozens of lives. The ESU conducted numerous home, vehicle and high-water rescues. When a Metro Nashville police officer was swept from his vehicle during the night and into rushing, debris-filled, 20-foot-deep water, the ESU team conducted an emergency rescue in the dark, saving the officer’s life.

“ESU volunteers are dedicated to serve their community and its citizens during their time of need during emergency and non-emergency incidents that affect our community,” said a representative from the Office of Emergency Management. “This is a great honor for us.”


Joe Gaines

Joe Gaines
Volunteers with Waverly Flood Survivors and Westminster Presbyterian Church

Joe Gaines has been an active disaster relief volunteer since Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005. He volunteered to help during Nashville’s 2010 flood, and after the 2020 tornadoes in Putnam and Davidson Counties. When flooding devastated Waverly, Tenn., Gaines’s actions were no different – he jumped in to help.

Since the August flooding, Gaines and his team have worked on 12 homes impacted by the storms. His team works on the most severely damaged homes, the ones many other teams walk away from. What makes Gaines’s work special is he recognizes these houses are more than damaged buildings, they’re people’s homes. When on site it’s a priority of his to introduce volunteers to the home owners to show just how important their work is.

“I feel that there is a call to help others in their time of need,” Gaines said. “I also enjoy hands-on labor and the fellowship of my fellow volunteers. My life has been rewarded by seeing the appreciation of those we help.”

Gaines is tireless, and works with a quiet determination and thorough knowledge of his skill set. After the attention has diverted from Waverly and the resources have dwindled, he’s remained dedicated to the flood victims. He continues to gather a crew two days a month to help those who have lost so much, and is often found working long after other volunteers have headed home.

He is the heart of his group, and the motivation to keep everyone positive throughout the day. He says he’s fortunate to work with his fellow members at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and continue their long tradition of service.

To see a full list of the nominees for the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.

Strobel Finalists 2022: Social Justice Impact

Congratulations to these three finalists in the Social Justice Impact category of the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until April 30 at the button below!

John Bull

John Bull
Volunteers with Open Table Nashville

John Bull is a longtime volunteer for Open Table Nashville (OTN), an interfaith, grassroots nonprofit that seeks to disrupt cycles of poverty, journey with the marginalized and provide education about issues of homelessness. Whether on the streets, in the woods, under bridges or in encampments, OTN meets Nashville’s homeless population where they are — and no one exemplifies this more than Bull , who assists with outreach efforts day in and day out. In his daily visits to encampments, Bull acts as the eyes and ears for OTN among the unhoused community, providing the supplies they need to survive outside, communicating when the overflow shelter is open, monitoring flood activity and transporting those in need of medical attention. On their own, these actions are vital to humanizing those impacted by homelessness, a population that has grown substantially over the years in number and need. However, to do it the way Bull does – tirelessly, daily and totally ingrained into his routine – is lifesaving. 

Bull ’s efforts extend beyond daily checks. In 2021 and for many years now, he has attended WeGO board meetings, city council meetings and other community meetings to better campaign for accessible resources for the unhoused, the decriminalization of homelessness and affordable housing. He is a one-of-a-kind volunteer who does the direct, daily work while also advocating for sustainable, systemic changes that our city needs.

“John makes a huge difference in so many people’s lives that just need someone to help them access the systems of care that currently are not accessible in our city,” his nominator shared. “They just need someone on their side, and John is this someone for so, so many of our unhoused friends. It is rare to have someone who shows up for our unhoused friends in the capacity he does — always advocating for our friends, never judging, all as an organic, authentic part of his own lifestyle.”

When asked about his nomination, Bull simply said: “We are all in this together.”


Linda McFadyen-Ketchum

Linda McFadyen-Ketchum
Volunteers with Moms Demand Action Tennessee

Linda McFadyen-Ketchum has given almost 50 years of volunteer service to the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee. As a full-time volunteer activist for national organization Moms Demand Action, she gives a voice and power to those who are impacted by gun violence. In 2013, McFadyen-Ketchum jump-started the organization of Tennessee’s ‘Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America’ following the Sandy Hook massacre. Through determination and grassroots leadership, Linda helped grow from a Nashville chapter of five moms to a fully-fledged, nationally recognized organization that includes nine local groups statewide. 

Since founding the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action, McFadyen-Ketchum has devoted her life to achieving justice and peace for those impacted by gun violence. Her dedication extends to legislative efforts, such as educating lawmakers; testifying before the legislature; establishing a “State Legislative Rapid Response Team” in Middle Tennessee; and coordinating with other statewide organizations serving vulnerable populations affected by gun violence like Tennessee trauma surgeons, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, the NAACP and racial justice organizations, foster care agencies, and suicide prevention organizations. Most importantly, however, Linda lifts up survivors: She invites survivors and families who have lost loved ones to meetings to offer respect and healing. 

“Linda’s exceptional volunteer work with Moms Demand Action Tennessee gives a voice and power to those who are impacted by gun violence and gun deaths in our city and state,” a colleague shared. “Many of those victims are African American children and their mothers and families, many deeply in need of a voice for their pain and loss.”

“Many [survivors] don’t have power or resources, and are especially vulnerable in the face of such grief. We lift up survivors by using our power and resources to assist them,” McFadyen-Ketchum said. “I am a survivor of gun violence and a retired public school teacher. The Sandy Hook School shooting in 2012 woke me up to the gun violence epidemic we Americans are living with now. We don’t have to live like this, and I am doing everything I can to save Tennesseans from gun death and injury.”


Veronica Zavaleta

Veronica Zavaleta
Volunteers with Hands On Nashville and Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition

A local and national community organizer and activist, Veronica Zavaleta has availed herself to Nashville’s immigrant community and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients since 2010. Amid changing legislation and uncertainty, she has gone above and beyond the call of duty, helping to coordinate an event to benefit Nashville’s Hispanic community impacted by the flood, recruiting other volunteers and organizing outreach to assist with everything from supplies to paperwork for immigration cases. 

Immigration issues hold a personal element for Zavaleta, yet she takes great personal risk each day to fight for the local immigrant community, one which has historically been ignored and underserved. Her selflessness is evident in the breadth and depth of her service — she not only gives her all to uplifting this community, but also recruits others to the same cause, amplifying her impact and maximizing the potential for change. In the words of a colleague, “What sets Veronica apart is that she goes beyond what is being asked of her. She is always an advocate at heart. For Veronica, anybody in need regardless of the reason needs to be addressed, and she ensures that happens.”

“I was called to serve in this world, and if I don’t serve, I don’t know what I would do,” said Zavaleta about her nomination. 

To see a full list of the nominees for the 36th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.