A Passion for Helping Others

Michele Nicholson alongside Amanda Laginess and Drew Trapnell volunteering for
Nashville Anti-Human Trafficking (NAHT)

Written by: Gunnar Eng

Volunteering is described by many as hard work which can be very rewarding. No one believes that more than Michele Nicholson, Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month who takes pride in helping others. Nicholson volunteers a good amount of time at Nashville’s Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition (NAHT) and has developed a bond with many women clients there. “Not only do I love helping others, but I have developed a relationship with the women who are in these programs and also the women who run the organizations,” says Nicholson. Nicholson at NAHT helps set up events and get everything organized for the non-profit. She not only loves to spend her time helping others but loves hanging with the friends she has made and sharing in the unique bond they have as survivors. “The other people who help volunteer know I organize a lot of the events and think I’m just there for volunteering. But in fact, I’m there because I am one of them, because I volunteer and help out, and also because I am a woman of Christ, and I am here to share my story. I’m here to give up my pain and happiness, to share with them, so they can rise above.” Nicholson also volunteers with the Magdalene City Group through Christ Presbyterian Church and plans to take them on a fishing trip next weekend. 

A celebration of the community

NVOTM.James King.3.Junior Achievement of Middle Tennessee

With the recent World Humanitarian Day celebrated on August 19th, we can appreciate the fundamental values of differences in one another. We look to encompass what that means as we reflect on ourselves during times of uncertainty, because out of despair comes ingenuity, and out of absence comes recognition. Doing Good takes the time to
not only acknowledge, but also uplift and recognize the extraordinary people in our community that continue to contribute in their own way.

James King of Williamson County, the neighborhood superhero, is playing his part by fixing bikes for the children and youth in his community, free of charge. During the pandemic, he has channeled his frustrations with it to contribute more than before the shutdown. He has expanded the neighborhood soccer games to three times a week to help the children with social anxiety or are feeling cut off and having a hard time coping with the solitude. Ushered by intensity to give back, James recognizes parents are working to provide for their family and supports them by recognizing the need to help children comply to maintain safety while also getting them outside to simply be a kid.

“I feel like God has blessed me incredibly, and I want to do whatever I can to help anyone who is in need,” James King replied when asked, “Why do you volunteer?” Besides his bike fixing superpowers, James maintains it is imperative to him to serve others through financial education for all as well as a multitude of services for refugees, children in foster care, and of course, soccer education. When you think he’s exhausted his superpowers, he modestly reveals teaching financial literacy for Junior Achievement of Middle Tennessee, leading singing in Spanish for multiple churches (translating English to Spanish and vice versa), and fighting local crime. Ok, maybe not fighting local crime with only so many hours in a day, but well… you get the point. Did we mention James works with Pinnacle Financial Partners, is also a doting father, and a foster parent as well?

Other non-profits in which James King is actively involved, in addition to Junior Achievement of Middle Tennessee, is Iglesia de Cristo Crieve Hall, Iglesia de Cristo Berrys Chapel, Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Inc., Williamson County Soccer Association, and teaching children, youth, and others as time allows. James touches the lives of many in his community selflessly. James’ favorite quotes are, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind” and his second favorite is similar, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” James King is best described as exceptional, though any one word may be an understatement.

James King recognizes the trivial conception of assumptions, saying he understands that which he considers common knowledge for himself may not be familiar to others. One example is consuming fruits and vegetables weekly, if not daily, to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “I’ve come across folks who didn’t know they should be eating fruits and vegetables to stay healthy. I considered that to be common knowledge, but what I’ve learned is people know what they grew up with, and common knowledge is not always common,” says James.

We’re only human, but when we do Good, we become humanitarians…or superheroes. We recognize our power is not only in numbers, but when and how we answer the call. The children will remember us, not for our shortcomings, but for our triumphs during difficult times. Not how hard we fell, but how strong we had to be to stand up. As curious children ourselves, we often wondered who the real superheroes were and captivated by their superhuman strength and magical powers. Still, the truth is…if we just look close enough and recognize the power of one person doing his or her part, real superheroes are all around us.

This year’s volunteers are celebrated by Doing Good, a local 501c3 non-profit that honors those who do Good. For more information or to nominate someone for Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month, visit DoingGood.tv.

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Doing Good is a 501c3 non-profit which provides marketing and public relations tools,
resources, and opportunities to non-profit and government agencies to celebrate their
volunteers. http://www.DoingGood.tv

A Young Volunteer with the Drive to Change the World

Sassy Neuman

Sassy Neuman, only twelve years old, is a prime example there is no age limit to giving back to the community. Uniquely, Sassy’s love for volunteering and serving others first began when she was in the fourth grade watching a documentary on the devastation of children in the foster care system. Recognizing how thankful she was of the simple privileges some may take for granted, she developed a passion for serving foster care children. Sassy quickly took initiative by inquiring with the Service Director at her school about different ways she could get involved. Thus, Sassy founded and launched her service group, The Bunny Bag Girls, where she and her best friends team up to compile and deliver gift baskets to and through the foster care system.

 

The Bunny Bag Girls launched four years ago with their first project of gifting Easter baskets to children with Monroe Harding, a local non-profit organization which helps support and find homes for foster children in the Nashville community. Sassy credits the success of her service to Monroe Harding as this organization has helped support their efforts since the first project. 

 

Through serving with Monroe Harding, Sassy has been able to develop many connections and continues to meet people who inspire her. Amy Bond, the recent Event Coordinator at Monroe Harding, has become one of Sassy’s biggest mentors. She also credits Adele Holloway, the Service Director at Oak Hill Elementary, and her mother, Liza Byrd, for their support and guidance. She says these three women have consistently encouraged and supported her by inspiring her work, helping her find new ways to get involved, or just driving her around to deliver the baskets. Additionally, she credits the Owner of Magpies, Maggie Tucker, for also heavily inspiring her volunteer efforts. Sassy often collaborates with the local boutique to sell baked goods, lemonade, and bracelets to raise funds for their baskets. The mentors have brought a supportive and encouraging element to Sassy’s life. Through the years of volunteering, Sassy says “it’s been a humbling experience to learn about the foster care system,” and it’s evident her passion for helping grows stronger each day.

 

Since then, the Bunny Bag Girls have changed their name to Fostering Faith and strive to do just as their name states. Volunteering actively in all parts of her life, Sassy is a part of the Care Bears Club at her school which meets to knit hats for babies in Kenya, Africa who would not have the clothing otherwise. Sassy has also received the Presidential Service Award honoring her 100+ hours of volunteer work. She urges everyone to talk to someone they trust about getting involved in volunteering. She emphasizes volunteering does not need to be a grand gesture, but just “being kind to people is an act of service,” one of many ways Sassy embodies a service-oriented mindset.

Sassy is the youngest person to date named Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month, and volunteers of all ages are celebrated by Doing Good and its partners. Doing Good is a local 501c3 nonprofit. To partner with Doing Good to celebrate those who do good or to nominate someone for Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month, visit DoingGood.tv.

A Celebration of the Community

volunteer-hands small

 

As the middle of the year approaches, Doing Good takes a moment to reflect on this year’s outstanding service-oriented volunteers in the Nashville area. Local Nashville volunteers continue to selflessly give back to their community while volunteering in unique ways that express their passions and philanthropic interests. 

Sheila Habacker has been serving the Nashville community with her expertise in yoga for years. In addition, yoga has had a major impact on Habacker’s recovery process from her previous bone marrow transplant.  She believes that volunteering is her way of giving back to the ones that helped her heal.  Since her recovery, Sheila has been volunteering her time to Small World Yoga, where she teaches yoga to others that might not get the chance to experience it. 

Inspired by her mother’s example, Zarita Fears has been actively volunteering since she was a child.  She currently works as a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist for the Employee Resource Group at Asurion and serves as a board member of the local chapter for the Lupus Foundation of America.  Zarita says her inspiration for volunteering comes from knowing “the differences I have made will affect generations to come.”  Additionally, she has served for over ten organizations in the Nashville area and continues to do so in her free time. 

Camp Oasis and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation are two touchstones where Lauren Bellflower found her support when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 20.  While she says that Crohn’s disease is a topic that isn’t often talked about, Camp Oasis, where Lauren volunteers as a counselor, allows her to encourage children to feel comfortable in their own skin.  Lauren is also serving as a board member for Tennessee’s Chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and continues to serve local organizations in the Nashville area. 

Another hard working volunteer, Kaitlyn Jolley, has a passion for ensuring all students have equal opportunities for future success.  As a middle school teacher, the root of her volunteer efforts is additionally shown through her professional career.  Kaitlyn is diligently working to build bridges among nonprofit organizations, businesses, and the community in order to create a like-minded passion for providing for children in need. 

Leah Kennedy is a young but treasured volunteer in the Nashville community, and especially the Williamson County Fair. Growing up, she raised her own chickens and was involved in 4H. Now she serves as the Secretary and Vice Chairman on the Williamson County Junior Fair Board. She loves to volunteer at the fair, because it affords her the opportunity to spend time with children and teach them about a topic she loves, agriculture. “I love working with little kids and seeing their faces light up. It is the most rewarding thing,” Leah says. 

My Bag My Story, founded and run by Cara Finger, provides bags to children in the foster care system. Cara Finger, a mom of three, has a passion for giving a voice to the children in the foster care system and bringing more awareness to the system in general. She has always lived by the idea that “we can’t make all the difference, but we can make a difference,” and she encourages others to get involved wherever they can. 

This year’s volunteers are celebrated by Doing Good, a local 501c3 nonprofit which celebrates those who do good. For more information or to nominate someone for Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month, visit DoingGood.tv.

Taking the Initiative to Make a Difference

Cara Finger.Cara Finger, CEO and founder of non-profit organization, My Bag My Story

From a young age, volunteering has been an integral part of Cara Finger’s life, which she credits to her parents. Raised in Texas, she says one of her most memorable moments was attending Buckner’s Children’s home where she first experienced the joy a child received from a new pair of shoes. Cara was just 6 years old, but she immediately recognized the need to help the unfortunate, and she has kept the importance of volunteering alive in her family by encouraging her children to do the same.
As an advocate for volunteerism, she says to “find where your passion is and latch on to some place to help.” One of the ways Cara has given back has been by creating a clothing drive in her child’s former elementary school 10 years ago. Since then, the clothing drive has donated one million pounds of clothing to its sister school. Cara’s initiative to give back in her child’s elementary school has created more support for children in need, all while teaching a younger generation the value of helping others.
Her most impactful effort has been her non-profit, My Bag My Story, which works to give
children in the foster care system a bag to carry personal belongings. She says that when foster children came into her home she was bothered by the fact they were not given a simple bag to carry from home to home. Since 2016, Cara has been able to grant over 400 stylish, colorful, handmade bags to organizations that work directly with children in the foster care system and is still working diligently to provide more.

From local fairs to the global pandemic

Copy of NVOTM.Leah Kennedy.5.croppedWritten by: Emerson Loudenback

Fifteen-year-old Leah Kennedy is a student at Fairview High School, but that’s not all she is. Since fourth grade, the young leader has been heavily involved in the county fair, specifically the Williamson County Fair, as well as local 4-H programs. Her personal experience is with raising and showing chickens, but Leah has grown and learned a lot by helping in other areas of the fair.
As a fair volunteer, Leah has watched and participated in the process of caring for and showing animals, both in and out of the barn. “Once I saw all the work that went into this event, I felt I needed to serve my community and give back to them,” says Leah. Areas of the fair, including the youth art section, the show ring and the Funnel Cake 5k, are other places Leah participates and volunteers in, setting up and managing different events and locations all over the fairground. Her passion for the animals and for the local community fuels Leah’s excitement for the fair each year and for any and all opportunities to serve. In addition to the barns, Leah also works with children, teaching them about the animals and agriculture. “I love working with little kids and seeing their faces light up. It is the most rewarding thing,” says Leah. It’s this same kind of excitement that has led Leah to consider a career in agriculture.
Leah’s passion for the animals and for volunteering has brought her to the Williamson County Junior Fair Board, where she has served as Secretary and as Vice Chairman. Both positions have fostered her leadership skills and informed her knowledge of the tremendous work that goes into the fair each year. Not surprisingly, Leah loves all of the chances she finds to “get out there and help” wherever she is needed, whether in big or small ways. Even now, amid global pandemic crises, Leah has found ways to help her community, making and delivering masks for local EMS workers and also family members.  Leah is an inspiration to the youth in our community, and we are proud to name her Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month.

Happy to Serve

Kaitlyn distributing to tornado victims for Corner to Corner at McGruder Family Resource Center auditorium
Written by: Emerson Loundenback

When it comes to superpowers, Kaitlyn Jolley doesn’t have just one.  She’s a middle school teacher, an advocate for health and wellness in the Nashville community, and she comes to the rescue in times of need, whether it’s helping the hungry, finding assistance for students who want better opportunities for their future, or, most recently, being on the frontlines for relief from the tornado that devastated the community on March 2nd of this year.

Drawing on her personal faith and natural talents, as well as her education and drive to create a better world, Kaitlyn never stops.  She began her career as a teacher but saw that teachers in her district were overworked, as were administrators.  So she found ways to implement initiatives that relieved them of difficulties that sometimes stood in the way of their duties.  She helped alleviate hunger among students and created wellness programs by partnering with local volunteer organizations.  This paved the way for a stronger student body who could work more passionately toward their goals.  Kaitlyn created college preparation and tutoring services to assist students in achieving their goals.

During the tornado relief efforts, Kaitlyn implemented unique ways to organize and deliver supplies to those in need.  Working with McGruder Family Resource Center, Gideon’s Army and Corner to Corner, Kaitlyn helped make a big difference in the lives of those who thought they might have lost everything.

As Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month, Kaitlyn says, “I always have had a passion for helping and serving people who have been in underserved areas and populations.”  She continues to serve and better the lives of others, and this is what brings happiness to her own life.

Finding Hope in Volunteering

Reality Edwards and Lauren Bellflower.Co-counselors and lifelong friendsReality Edwards and Lauren Bellflower, Co-counselors and lifelong friends
Written by: Emerson Loudenback

Lauren Bellflower was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was 20 years old. Through various treatments and changes, Lauren found her way to Camp Oasis and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Camp Oasis specifically led Lauren to relationships with peers her age and younger who were also battling health issues. She says, “Living with an incurable chronic illness can leave you joyless at times, but happiness and hope are two things I have found through volunteering.”

 

Lauren works once a year at Camp Oasis as a counselor where she curates a week of activities and events for children who otherwise feel comfortable in their own skin and struggle to fit in. “We have campers (who) start out nervous (about the camp experience). Some have never (previously) met anybody else with their disease or ever really talked about it,” says Lauren. She particularly enjoys seeing campers as they start to open up and create bonds with counselors and with other children.

 

This is the seventh year Lauren will work as a camp counselor. Simultaneously she serves as a board member for the Tennessee Chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation by helping with fundraising and education events. Lauren understands may never fully understand the impact of her volunteering. Regardless, the humbling and compassionate moments experienced in both settings will forever remind her she finds hope and happiness through volunteering. 

 

Multi-generational good

Zarita.pic 4Written by: Emerson Loudenback

“The good we do always comes back to us,” says Zarita Fears, this month’s Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month. Zarita has been a motivated volunteer since she was a child when she helped supply local shelters and even tutored other children. Just as her mother instilled in her the value of “small acts of kindness,” she has continued her family tradition by raising her daughter in service work around local shelters. Zarita has consistently made it a point to serve others.

She has been lucky, as she says, to turn her passion into her career. She currently works as a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist for the Employee Resource Groups (ERG) at Asurion and volunteers as a board member for the local chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America. In addition, Zarita serves various nonprofits in the Nashville area on her own time. She remarks she is reminded of the work she has done by a remark someone makes or when running into someone she has helped. “Even if no one remembers my name,” she says, “the differences I have made will affect generations to come.”

 

It’s a small world, after all

NVOTM.Sheila and Lynsey Habacker
Sheila with daughter, Lensey

Yoga proved helpful in Sheila Habacker’s recovery from her bone marrow transplant. After fully recovering, she became certified as a yoga teacher where she learned she could teach yoga to the underserved. She is one of many who volunteer in this way with Small World Yoga. She says, “I don’t know if they ever think about it again or not. But, I hope it gives them a tool to create ways to relieve stress in their body and mind. To help them let go of something.”

She also says she does only what she can do, so she chooses to lead two classes. She teaches yoga to at-risk youth at Oasis Center as well as patients recovering from chemical dependency at Rolling Hills Hospital.

Not everyone can teach yoga, but most people have special talents or interests. Sheila says “it comes to down to identifying (how the volunteer) can be the most authentically helpful to people.” Additionally, “when you can give in a way that means something to you,” it is meaningful to both the volunteer and those receiving the services.