Congratulations to these three finalists in the Group Volunteer Service category of the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards! Vote for your favorite story of service until June 15 at the button below!
Open Table Nashville’s Winter Canvassing Team
Volunteers who served those experiencing homelessness by providing transportation and supplies throughout the winter
A core team of seven volunteers from Open Table Nashville’s winter canvassing team went above and beyond to serve as a consistent source of warmth for the city’s homeless population. During a particularly harsh winter, Adam Twining, Caroline Erickson, Teddy Denti, Jon Rizzo, Jacob Margason, Liz Shadbolt, Cooper March and Bob Milburn provided vital transportation and supplies, organized outreach for unhoused citizens, and ultimately helped prevent cold-weather death and injury.
Open Table Nashville is an interfaith homeless outreach nonprofit with the goal of disrupting cycles of poverty and educating the public about issues of homelessness. In 2020, the dedicated team of winter canvassing volunteers distinguished itself, battling brutal conditions amid an ongoing pandemic, to ensure that needs were met. Every night this past winter that temperatures dropped to or below 28 degrees Fahrenheit, the team performed wellness checks, distributed warming supplies and either drove homeless citizens to shelters or equipped them with the resources to stay warm in their cars or encampments.
The team also addressed homelessness from a civic perspective, including outreach to WeGo staff and Metro Councilmembers to organize supply drives and support equitable and accessible transportation for the unhoused population.
“Our volunteers are different because they show up,” said Adam Twining, Open Table Nashville staff member. “They show up when it’s not easy or glamorous, in the evenings when no one is watching them put in the work. They show up for our unhoused friends who are often in crisis mode, extremely stressed, and often need to be met with an incredible amount of grace and patience. They show up and volunteer for days in a row, even when they have jobs, families and school to also attend to.”
In 2020, the volunteers offered 782 rides to Metro Nashville’s Overflow Cold Weather shelter and 47 rides to other shelters, handed out warming supplies 912 times, and ultimately, interacted with homeless citizens a staggering 2,163 times. Their efforts meant that Nashville’s homeless community received safety, warmth and comfort during a period when those qualities seemed few and far between.
Charlotte Heights Church of Christ Volunteer Group
Volunteers who provided weekly shower services and hygiene supplies with nonprofit Shower The People
Motivated by widespread need and refusing to be held back by a devastating pandemic, the Charlotte Heights Church of Christ volunteer group joined forces with local nonprofit Shower the People to provide weekly shower services and hygiene supplies for homeless Nashvillians. In doing so, they harnessed the power of collaboration to yield an exponential impact on the city.
Over the past 18 months, this group of volunteers has showed up for Shower the People’s Tuesday night shower service every week, stopping only when the COVID-19 stay-at-home order mandated it. Each week, they have fulfilled every role from picking up shower guests and connecting the water hoses, to distributing supplies and everything in between. When last year’s tornado prevented the regular service from occurring in West Nashville, this group used their church bus to drive homeless citizens to the new location, ensuring that no one would go without.
“During hot summer nights and cold winter evenings, this group shows up,” says Josh Barnett, a member of Shower the People. “As soon as the bus pulls up to service, they are unloading supplies, connecting hoses, starting the signup board – all like a well-oiled machine.”
In total, the group has provided hundreds of hours of service and even more showers to homeless citizens of Nashville. Their work demonstrates that, when it comes to meeting the need for health and human dignity, no act is too small.
Nonprofit providing leadership, mentorship, academic support and networking opportunities for children and families in Nashville
Amid a devastating pandemic that has wreaked havoc on our community and, in particular, families, Bridge Builders went the extra mile for school-age children and their loved ones in 2020. The nonprofit impacted the lives of students throughout Metro Nashville Public Schools and schools in surrounding counties by connecting them to necessary resources, including free haircuts, school supplies, meals and more. Bridge Builders also continued their mentorship program for high-school-age students, equipping them with the tools and connections necessary for their transition to higher education. Through their efforts, they eased the burden for Nashville students navigating a grueling school year and experiencing a total loss of normalcy.
Bridge Builders’ efforts were not limited to students and their families. Over the past year, President Daniel Craig and the Bridge Builders organization have risen to meet the needs of the community both large and small. This included distributing bottled water and meals to senior citizens unable to leave their homes, coordinating holiday gift donations for families, and partnering with organizations like the Ronald McDonald House and Nashville Rescue Mission to further serve their members.
“Bridge Builder is a grassroots organization with limited resources,” said nominator Jessica Rich. “They’ve found ways to impact the community by partnering with organizations, community members and businesses to provide for those in need.”
“Bridge Builders Program Inc. was brought into community service by the very community we serve,” said Daniel Craig, president of Bridge Builders. “Early on, we noticed that small, seemingly insignificant acts created a ripple effect. It’s truly an honor to serve the teachers, students and senior citizens. They are the cornerstones of our community!”
To see a full list of the nominees for the 35th Annual Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Awards, click here.