By: Kingsley East
“No matter where we’re at, we can still help someone less fortunate than ourselves.” Many people claim this statement, but few have twenty-eight years of imprisonment to stand behind it. Ndume Olatushani spent over half of his life in prison for a murder that he didn’t commit, yet he never saw himself as worse off than the people around him. Not only that, but Ndume spent his jail time putting this statement into action, as he reached out to help his fellow inmates and educate himself about the legal system.
A harsh environment and a series of bad choices growing up led Ndume into the wrong circumstances, which incarcerated him for a murder-robbery that occurred in Tennessee. Before his trial date, Ndume had never even stepped foot in Tennessee. While the legal system failed Ndume in many ways, it did not defeat him. Ndume believes, “Whatever fires we go through in life, if we get through to the other side, that adversity is not meant for us, it is meant for other people.”
Ndume used his time in jail to serve others and show people that we all have a responsibility to help those around us. Now, Ndume uses his experiences to reach out to men in jail and youths who are subject to follow his path into prison. He does this by volunteering at after school programs for local high schools and partnering with organizations like Project Return and the Martha O’Bryan Center.
Looking back, Ndume sees that his home life was a foundational place for his life of service, but his social environment failed to encourage him to rise above stereotypes and keep away from the pathway to jail. Now, Ndume strives to give children and incarcerated men hope. His story is proof that anything is possible, and any situation can be turned into an opportunity to care for others.
The Harbin Family
Michele Harbin began volunteering in 5th grade, continues today, and is passing it on to her daughter. Michele grew up in a serving home as the daughter of two ministers where service had always been their way of life. Yet formal volunteerism was introduced to her in 5th grade at Beech Elementary School in Hendersonville. As she finished her school work, she was allowed to help with a special needs class through volunteer opportunities with 4-H, Beta Club, and other non-profits.
This introduction to a lifelong passion of working with people with disabilities. Not only did she meet her future husband while volunteering, yet also eventually founding Alliance for Recreational Empowerment Foundation (ARE) with a group of friends, and planning for the future by involving her 3 year old daughter. The proud mother is happy to say her daughter “has yet to ask ‘why is she in a wheelchair, or why does he have a feeding tube?’ To her, it is (all) still normal!” Michele also says, “It’s important to me (as her mother) to instill those values in her at a young age.”
Written by: Kingsley East
David Tuchman is a financial analyst by day and volunteer videographer by night. In between, David also volunteers around Nashville with a diverse group of local non-profits. Growing up, David loved filmmaking as a hobby and discovered his passion for telling the overlooked stories of unique people. Since then, David volunteers to make films such as those that capture the devastating realities of poverty and sex trafficking in order to promote social awareness and change.
David’s film career spans beyond this to include some professional work with The Tennessean newspaper. He also acts as the technical director at his church in Brentwood, Fellowship Bible Church. Not only does David love volunteering in the film industry, he also serves his community with his co-workers and a group of men whom he mentors at church. At work, David acted as the service coordinator for Cat Financial to provide consistent volunteer opportunities for his co-workers. Through his church, David spent six years mentoring a group of young professionals each week and volunteering with them at various non-profits.
David is motivated to consistently serve his community at work and in church because he wants to better people’s lives. David seizes every opportunity to reach out from his work and church environments in order to help local non-profits, and he loves to utilize his filmmaking skills when it comes to volunteering. David believes that when you put in volunteer work, the reward may be slow, but it will be life changing.
Written by: Kingsley East: Misty Woodford is a mom, a daughter, a real estate broker, and a volunteer. She leads a life full of caring for others, including her family and the community within her church and children’s school. Misty is passionate about many things, but her children are her top priorities when it comes to choosing how to invest her time. Extending from her family, Misty gives much of her time to the community and the causes surrounding it. Misty believes that the best way to impact and create change is to be involved.
Misty is an incredible example of a working mom who still values giving back to her community. She uses her skills and innovation to find volunteering outlets that align with her own passions and organizational abilities. Misty primarily volunteers at her children’s school through fundraising and training other parents there; however, she also leads a community group with her husband at their church. Misty is gifted in managing groups and events, and she loves to make teams operate more efficiently to meet their goals. Misty believes,
“It doesn’t matter how much time you have or what your skill set is, there’s a place for everyone.”
Misty explained that we’re all talented at something; so, people should use their gifts to improve their communities. We can’t all feed the homeless or go to nursing homes, but when you do something that you’re passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work. Then you get to encourage people more and impact those around you because you enjoy what you’re doing.
Krystle Couch volunteering – on the radio!
by: Kingsley East
Tune in on Saturday afternoons from 3-5 to hear this month’s honored volunteer, Krystle Couch. Krystle is a part of the team that puts on “Radio Free Nashville” (RFN). This non-profit radio station works weekly to bring information, laughter, and new music to locals at no cost. RNF is operated by volunteers like Krystle who strive to give a voice to the people of Middle Tennessee, and it runs on donations from the community. This is a radio station for the people, run by the people, operating under the mission statement:
“Believing that democracy cannot function if only a few have access to the media, Radio Free Nashville, Inc. (RFN) intends to be a community forum for the music, voices, and viewpoints generally ignored or misrepresented by the corporate media.”
Krystle’s role in this organization stems from her own passions for journalism and music. Every week, she researches the latest news and compiles a playlist of local artists for Saturday’s show. Krystle received a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. RFN provides Krystle with an outlet to use her journalism and technology skills to give a voice to the community and local artists. Krystle loves this work because it’s fun. She said,
“I don’t see it as work. I see it as friends coming together and hanging out and talking about common interests.”
After talking to Krystle, her charisma and passion for life, Nashville, and music is evident. RFN showcases this enthusiasm while updating and inspiring the community weekly. Krystle’s volunteerism is unique and life-giving to the community in Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
Coach Jermarus McInnis (seated, center)
Written by Kingsley East
“Instilling success today for a successful tomorrow.”
This is the slogan under which Coach McInnis operates his AAU basketball team, the Tennessee Panthers. Coach McInnis and his college roommate started the Tennessee Panthers nine years ago as an outlet for middle and high school boys. Because Coach McInnis grew up with mentors who invested in his life, he was able to mature and succeed in college. Therefore, he feels compelled to give back to his community in this same way. He said,
“My mindset is always, I have more to do.”
Coach McInnis sets out every day, on and off the court, with the goal to better the lives of young men. He constantly pushes his team towards championship games and academic success. Through discipline and accountability, Coach McInnis has enabled his players to achieve both of these rewards, but he doesn’t stop there. Coach McInnis’s response to boys who say that they will pay him back one day is simple. He tells them,
“The only thing you owe me is a college degree.”
A college degree is Coach McInnis’s main goal for his boys. To achieve this, Coach McInnis gives his time and money to invest in boys as they grow into men. Through weekly practices, weekend tournaments, and accountability, this team becomes a family. While Coach McInnis gets to be a part of each boy’s road to success, his humility keeps him focused on the future and everything he can do to help his players have a better life.
By: Kingsley East
Families of disabled children and local communities believe this truth, but it takes workers and volunteers like Annah to set this statement into motion. Annah Slayton abides by these words as she works to bring therapy, growth, and hope to disabled children. Working with a nonprofit called Special Kids, Annah’s goal as a volunteer is to give back to the community and support an organization that makes the world a better place.
Special Kids operates out of love to meet the needs not only of disabled or medically fragile kids, but also to treat entire families in Murfreesboro and eighteen surrounding counties.
“I loved going and working with the kids and seeing them smile.”
Annah serves Special Kids to make children’s lives better, and she is inspired every day by their smiles and growth. Annah is passionate about children and artwork. At Special Kids, she gets to fulfill both of these desires through service and creativity. From desk work to artwork, Annah uses her own skills and passions to help Special Kids change hundreds of lives.
Annah never thought she would be a dedicated volunteer, but three years later, her time with Special Kids proves otherwise. Annah now loves working alongside the Special Kids team to invest in children’s futures. Giving a few hours of her time each week to this organization provides Annah with a sense of purpose and joy in seeing a child grow while working with an uplifting team that lives to carry out a mission of service.