Roopa packing books for low-income children at Book’em
Written by: Kingsley East
“Volunteering helps me to develop skills, learn more about career options, make friends, spend time, build confidence, and even just shake up my routine.” These are a few of Roopa Srinivasa Rao’s reasons for volunteering, and she encourages others to get involved in their communities as well. Roopa is passionate about helping others, finding solutions to meet people’s needs, and expanding her own network of people. Through volunteering, Roopa has found an outlet for each of these desires.
Roopa serves a non-profit called Book ‘Em that works to provide underprivileged children with books. Since its foundation in 1989, Book ‘Em has donated over one million books to various schools, camps, and programs throughout Middle Tennessee. When Roopa first went to Book ‘Em, she immediately felt appreciated by the staff, comfortable in Book ‘Em’s environment, and inspired by their mission. Having moved to America from India only a year ago, volunteering with Book ‘Em provides Roopa with a growing network of people and a way to spend her time so that it helps others. Additionally, Roopa believes that people gain knowledge through their experiences, and she encourages others to learn new skills through volunteer experiences.
Joyce Wisby volunteering at the Sunny Day Club
Written by: Kingsley East
Joyce Wisby is this month’s honored volunteer. From the age of sixty-one, Joyce spent a decade of her life fighting against and educating herself about Alzheimer’s disease because of her husband Jim’s diagnosis. Since Jim’s passing, Joyce continues to serve her community by educating others about Alzheimer’s, leading a support group, and heading up a fundraising organization through Bellevue Presbyterian Church. Joyce said, “When Jim passed away, I felt compelled to give back and help others grow in their faith as well as ease their life as they are on the Alzheimer’s journey.”
Joyce learned with Jim that no hardship has to ruin a relationship, and joy can be found in any circumstances. Now, she works every day to help others find hope and happiness in the midst of great trials. As a support group leader, Joyce is a resource to many, and she gets to be a part of a family that encourages one another to press on through hardships with a positive attitude. Joyce said, “I find much satisfaction in reaching out to others to help make their lives easier, rather than focusing on my needs. By helping others, I find contentment.”
Justin’s passion of music
Written by: Kingsley East
“I volunteer because it brings joy to my heart to give back. I was always taught to give back because sharing your time and talents can bring life to the world.” Justin Singleton brings joy to himself and others as a co-host for a non-profit radio station. He, along with two others, hosts the radio segment “Noize” on a station called “Radio Free Nashville.” From three to five on Saturday afternoons, Justin teams up with his friends to create an atmosphere full of laughter and independent music.
Justin describes his team like family, which makes volunteering such a joy to each of them. They are always trying to bring smiles to their listeners through their own passion for current events and music. Not only does “Noize” consist of discussions and humor, but it also features independent musicians. Justin explained that the artists really enjoy coming on the show because their music is broadcasted, and it’s not always easy for independent artists to be heard. “Noize” makes great musicians feel appreciated for their talent and accomplishments.
Justin said that his family motto is to give back. He believes that a million smiles is far better than one million dollars. “Noize” offers Justin an outlet to live out these ideas as he gets to help independent artists and bring joy to local listeners. Justin is passionate about making the world a better place, as he says, “I really do enjoy serving the people. Service is the greatest gift you can give back to the people. Doing good feels good!”
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.