1. Connect with survivors who may still need support: Small groups of volunteers will canvass flood-affected neighborhoods on Oct. 24. We especially need Spanish speakers to ensure we can connect with as many families as possible! Can’t make it on Oct. 24? Join us for another canvassing project Nov. 12, 15 or 16!
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.
Maria Amado Volunteers with The Community Resource Center
When the March 3, 2020, tornadoes hit, Maria Amado headed straight to the Community Resource Center, set up a workspace, and has barely left since. As the CRC’s board chair, she was already well positioned to help advance CRC’s mission of meeting basic needs in the Middle Tennessee community. But when 2020 brought multiple disasters to Nashville, Amado’s support for the resource hub kicked into overdrive.
She answered phones, did interviews, unloaded trucks, took supplies to their destinations, organized hundreds of volunteers, secured donations of tons of items, and even learned how to drive a forklift so she could be even more useful in the CRC’s warehouse.
“Maria lives and breathes the mission of volunteerism,” says her nominator, Cindie Burkett. “Her passion for what she does sets her apart and the community knows her by her first name for the support she has provided.”
When COVID-19 hit Middle Tennessee, many organizations and businesses paused operations. The Community Resource Center — which, at the time, had just one paid employee: their executive director — ramped up its response with Maria’s help and distributed tens of thousands of hygiene and cleaning kits to the community, as well as personal protective equipment and other items that were hard to find in the spring of 2020.
CRC became aware of 300 local military members slated to return from overseas deployment who were to begin quarantine. These soldiers had only what was in their rucksacks — no linens for their beds. Amado personally spent six hours on the phone securing 300 sets of bedding — sheets, pillows, and blankets that could be delivered in 48 hours.
When a bomb went off downtown on Christmas Day, Amado left her family and went to the CRC warehouse. Phone outages made it impossible to contact CRC’s executive director, so Amado became the sole contact for the Office of Emergency Management, and helped lead CRC’s efforts to provide food and supplies to first responders, federal agents, and survivors.
“I cannot remember a time when I was not volunteering,” Amado says. “It has been a part of my family’s life, my life, even as a child. Helping others empowers us, grounds us, feeds us intellectually and spiritually. The more we learn about the challenges our neighbors face, the easier it is for us to be the change we want to see — for us to create healthy, stable productive happy communities.”
Emergency Support Unit Nashville Office of Emergency Management
Nashville’s Office of Emergency Management Emergency Support Unit (OEM ESU) is a group of a couple dozen trained individuals who provide critical services for the city — all while many Nashvillians don’t realize they are volunteers!
Nashville’s Dive Rescue team, which handles all water rescues and recoveries — all volunteers. Nashville’s Swift Water rescue team that recently saved dozens of people during flooding — volunteers. The K9 search and rescue team that searched the rubble on 2nd Avenue for survivors after the Christmas Day bombing — volunteers. And the weather/disaster response team that helped lead recovery efforts after the March 2020 tornado — volunteers. Working alongside police, fire, and emergency medical technicians, the more than 40 men and women on the team are sometimes overlooked, because when people see them in uniform or in the news, they don’t realize these highly-trained first responders have other 9-to-5 jobs, yet put hundreds of hours in each year responding to whatever weather or emergency disasters our city faces.
During the tornado, this team was heavily involved with coordinating response and recovery efforts — everything from search and rescue to connecting survivors with resources and helping provide recovery services. When the bombing happened on Second Avenue, the team deployed to search for survivors in the rubble. The team is called out regularly to help with weather-related incidents and water-related accidents.
This team of volunteers — who come from all walks of life — has literally saved dozens of lives, helped provide physical and logistical support during disasters to Nashville residents, and regularly provides the city with services it would not otherwise have. OEM ESU saves the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by volunteering their services, as a majority of its members volunteer more than 200 hours a year.
“Many of our members are native Nashvillians with deep ties to this community,” says ESU’s David Crane. “Some knew Ms. Strobel and her lifetime commitment to service. We consider it an honor and privilege to be included in the list of finalists for this award bearing her name and legacy.”
Nicholas Renfroe Volunteered inNorth Nashville to assist with tornado response
When a tornado ripped through Middle Tennessee in the wee hours of March 3, 2020, Belmont senior Nicholas Renfroe immediately sprang into action. He contacted his neighbors, church board members, and fellow Belmont students, and organized a day of service. In just 48 hours, Renfroe connected 250 volunteers and arranged to shuttle them from his South Nashville church to help survivors in North Nashville clean up their devastated neighborhoods.
Renfroe then organized a monthlong dropoff where members of his church could donate essential items and nonperishable food to displaced North Nashvillians. More than 1,200 toiletries, articles of clothing, infant items, and more were distributed to survivors over the following weeks.
When COVID-19 shut down churches across the region, Renfroe developed an app for his church, Lake Providence Missionary Baptist, so that members — in particular senior citizens — could stay connected and prevent loneliness and isolation. The app will continue to connect church members for years to come.
“My faith is very important to me,” Renfroe says, “and one of the core principles of my Christian faith is services. I believe that the most common way that God answers a prayer for a miracle in the life of someone is through individuals and communities who use their gifts and talents to benefit those around them.”
Additionally, Renfroe was selected to be part of the American Cancer Society’s Men Wear Pink Campaign in October to raise awareness of breast cancer. Renfroe baked cakes and pies to sell and raised more than $2,000.
“What sets Nick apart is his willingness to meet a need even while he has other obligations to attend to,” says his nominator. “He was a senior in college, working a full-time job, and had other social and personal obligations. Time and time again, when a need arises, Nick will stop what he is doing to help.”
2020 was a year like no other, full of incredible acts of service in response to multiple disasters and great community need. Thank you to the amazing volunteers nominated for the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards. Read on for a full list of nominees in each category.
What’s next: We’ll announce the finalists on June 1, and the public will be able to vote for their favorite stories of service between June 1-15.
Save the date for the celebration: Join Hands On Nashville on Thursday, July 1, when we’ll announce the award recipients on our website and social channels. Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any important announcements!
Recognizes individuals who provided significant operational or administrative support in 2020 to a nonprofit agency, faith-based ministry or community organization, or developed an innovative approach to significantly improve an existing program.
Colin Dudley and the team at CGI
Dr. Paula Pendergrass
Allison Quintanilla Plattsmier
Turnip Green Creative Reuse
Group Volunteer Service
Recognizes any group of two or more individuals who volunteered together in 2020 for a specific issue or cause. Some group examples are faith-based, civic, membership, and corporate.
It’s National Volunteer Week! And while Hands On Nashville celebrates volunteers every day of the year, we want to mark this occasion by sharing a very special and sincere THANK YOU with the volunteers who have given so much of themselves to help their neighbors.
“We are living in a moment that calls for hope and light and love. Hope for our futures, light to see our way forward, and love for one another. Volunteers provide all three. Service — the act of looking out for one another — is part of who we are as a Nation. Our commitment to service reflects our understanding that we can best meet our challenges when we join together. This week, we recognize the enduring contributions of our Nation’s volunteers and encourage more Americans to join their ranks.”
2020 was a year marked by immense challenges, but also by so many stories of people stepping up and coming together to support their neighbors. Volunteers played a huge part in helping Nashville get through a tough year. We’re honored to share Hands On Nashville’s 2020 Impact Report, which shows the strong and inspiring impact of volunteerism.
If you’d like to receive a PDF copy of this impact report, fill out the form below!
“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!
December 31, 2020, Nashville, Tenn. – The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Office of Emergency Management, and Nashville/Davidson County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) are working together to provide immediate assistance to individuals affected by the tragedy on Friday, Dec. 25, in downtown Nashville.
With the city’s focus of quickly identifying businesses, employees of those affected businesses, and residents who lived in the damaged historic downtown structures, members of the VOAD have been identified based on their areas of expertise to assist in moving the recovery efforts downtown forward. This group of local nonprofits has been working closely since the incident to organize and mobilize resources and assistance by individuals and families affected.
Available resources include:
January 1st Food and Essentials Drive-Thru Event for Survivors
• 1 p.m., Community Resource Center, 218 Omohundro Place The Community Resource Center, in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, will be providing essential kits for survivors that will include food, hygiene products and diapers for those in need. The food boxes and essential kits will be available to pick-up during a “Nashville Strong” drive-thru event on Friday, January 1, 2020 at 1:00 pm at the Community Resource Center, located at 218 Omohundro Place, Nashville, TN 37210.
• Lutheran Disaster Response will also be on site for emotional and spiritual care providing purposeful listening to survivors overcoming challenges related to disaster recovery.
Additional Resources Available for Survivors
• Nashville Strong Assistance Fund Catholic Charities will provide assistance to those who live or work in the explosion perimeter area in the historic downtown area, through a specially funded program that will begin Monday, Jan. 4. An online application for assistance will be go live on Friday afternoon, Jan. 1.
The application can be accessed from the following web site: nashvillestrong2021.org. Those who are unable to access the online application can call (615) 352-8591.
• hubNashville For assistance from Metro Nashville Davidson County Government, affected individuals should visit hub.nashville.gov, use the hubNashville 311 app or call 311.
• Food Assistance Individuals in need of emergency food assistance can text ‘FEEDS’ to 797979 or visit www.secondharvestmidtn.org/get-help to access Second Harvest’s Find Food tool to locate the nearest food distribution, including Emergency Food Box sites in Davidson County. For additional assistance, individuals can call 2-1-1.
• Cash Assistance A limited supply of gift cards, provided by Salvation Army — Nashville Area Command, will be available for immediate cash assistance for those affected. Individuals can receive more information by texting the word ‘STRONG’ to 484848.
• Housing and Immediate Needs The American Red Cross of Tennessee is providing assistance for those displaced from their home, apartment or townhouse. Those needing assistance should contact the Red Cross at 800-RED-CROSS to help with their immediate needs, which may include food, shelter, clothing, health and mental health services, community referrals and recovery assistance.
• Assistance for Spanish Speakers Spanish speakers affected can call Conexión Americas at (615) 270-9252 for assistance beginning on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.
• Resource and Referral Line Individuals in need of assistance can contact United Way of Greater Nashville’s 24-hour resource and referral line for help by dialing 211 or visiting 211.org. Note: To qualify for financial assistance, survivors will need to provide proof of employment or residency in the direct impacted area.
How Community Members Can Help
• United Way of Greater Nashville is partnering with Mayor John Cooper’s office to accept gifts to its Restore the Dream Fund which will provide long-term disaster recovery support to nonprofits for the survivors. People who wish to donate may visit www.unitedwaygreaternashville.org or text RESTORE20 to 41444.
• The Salvation Army – Nashville Area Command believes “we are stronger together” and is assisting survivors with urgent needs of food, transportation, and healthcare through Kroger Gift Cards, UBER Rides and UBER Eats. Gifts can be made in support of this disaster response at www.salvationarmynashville.org.
• Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville provides a range of services that help clients through crises and toward self-sufficiency. Services include emergency financial assistance, counseling, job training, housing stability, hunger relief, and more. Gifts in support of their disaster relief efforts can be made at www.cctenn.org.
• The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s Nashville Neighbors Fund, established in partnership with WTVF-NewsChannel5, is accepting gifts to provide services to both the immediate and long-term needs of survivors affected by the Christmas Day tragedy.
• Hands On Nashville is recruiting volunteers to help with disaster relief and recovery efforts, including cleanup and distribution of essential items to survivors and first responders. Visit hon.org to register as a volunteer or find a disaster-relief project.
About the Nashville/Davidson County VOAD
The Nashville/Davidson County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) provides the framework for successful preparation and activation of nonprofits and private companies to provide essential augmentations for local government’s capacity and available resources during a disaster. The VOAD is a purposeful mechanism that scales up during crisis, strengthens area-wide disaster coordination, and enhances preparedness by sharing information and engaging in joint training.
The current VOAD steering committee includes:
American Red Cross of Tennessee
Catholic Charities of Tennessee
Community Resource Center
The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
Hands On Nashville
The Housing Fund
Lutheran Disaster Response
Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
Nashville Humane Association
Salvation Army – Nashville Area Command
Neighbor to Neighbor
Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
United Methodist Committee on Relief – Tennessee Conference
In spite of — and because of — all the challenges of 2020, Nashville volunteers made a strong showing in 2020. The numbers below reflect a community that shows up for its neighbors. We are grateful for you. See you in 2021!
Volunteers who signed up to serve: 52,000+
New hon.org volunteer registrations: 34,000+
Projects on the calendar: 6,600+
Virtual or remote projects: 440+
New long-term or flexibly scheduled projects: 160+
Economic value volunteers created for community partners: $2.29 million
SKILLS-BASED AND LONG-TERM SERVICE
• HON placed 23 AmeriCorps members at 13 local nonprofits for a yearlong term of service.
• HON’s GeekCause volunteers completed 24 tech projects, which saved our community partners $169,773.
• The corporate engagement team enlisted 1,265 volunteers who donated 6,100+ hours of their time to support 13 local nonprofits.
• Several employee teams utilized new at-home and kit-based project models to create 5,000+ care packages for teachers, students, veterans, individuals experiencing homelessness, and seniors. Those at-home projects allowed many to engage their families in their volunteer activities.
• Individuals who signed up to help with disaster relief: 35,000+
• Individuals who volunteered at a disaster-relief project (some many times): 11,200+
• Disaster-relief projects completed since March: 2,300+