Abinaya & her family
Writtten by: Amber Yun
Abinaya Ramakrishnan is an Ingram Scholar at Vanderbilt University, joining a small, distinguished pool of socially minded, service-oriented students who received the scholarship. Abinaya is an accomplished pre-med student, double majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society and Biological Sciences, and doing double duty volunteering at five different organizations in the Nashville community. As a trans-buddy and doula-in-training at the Vanderbilt Medical Center, a helping hand and arm of emotional support at the Alive Hospice, and a mental health educator in local middle schools and high schools through NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) in the Ending the Silence program, Abinaya has already impacted 3,000 Nashvillian lives in the past nine months alone.
For Abinaya, service has been a part of her life from an early age. When she was nine years old, she remembers accompanying her family friends to a local branch of Feed My Starving Children, packaging dry foods for impoverished children in Africa and South Asia. Since that first taste of community service, Abinaya has continued to serve her community in increasingly consequential ways, establishing her own non-profit called Muzic Academy in the 9th grade. Muzic Academy connects music teachers and low-income students in the Chicago area, providing free private music lessons for those who otherwise could not afford them and still continues to this day.
Although she has worked towards many issues in her community service, Abinaya’s primary passions are mental health and healthcare equality, and she sees them as recurring themes in her volunteering work. After a serious health scare in the family last year regarding her father’s heart–which he has successfully recovered from–Abinaya has been inspired to take her heart surgeon career to an underserved area like India and provide quality healthcare to indigent populations there. India, her parent’s home country, suffers from one of the highest rates of heart disease and access to quality healthcare is unpredictable. Abinaya credit her parents as pivotal motivators who “instilled the importance of education and giving back to those less fortunate.”
Jordan Thomas & one of the children he serves
Written by: Katie Christ
For Jordan Thomas, volunteering is not something he does on the side, it is a way of life. At the age of sixteen, Jordan suffered a horrible accident that completely changed his life as well as his perspective on life. This accident resulted in the loss of both of his legs, and it also resulted in the creation of The Jordan Thomas Foundation.
The foundation provides prosthetics to children whose families don’t have the means to do so due to the incredibly high cost of prosthetics. They are able to supply the kids with prosthetics until they reach the age of eighteen. Jordan explains seeing the children who benefit from his foundation running, playing, and living “normal lives” reaffirms their nonprofit mission, that they are doing something good and his hard work is completely worth it. He believes volunteering gives him a sense of meaning, purpose, and perspective in his life.
July Volunteer of the Month: Patricia Leonard
Patricia Leonard is extremely passionate about empowering women. In her corporate, volunteer, and personal life her goal is to “inspire women to break through any glass ceilings through leadership and contribution.” She believes that talk is not enough – we have to act in order to empower. This is played out specifically in her volunteer life through her work with Nashville Women in Film & Television where she serves on the board and Dress for Success where she volunteers as a coach.
A unique characteristic about Patricia is her ability to listen to other people’s desires and to help make those desires a reality. Whether is it giving someone an avenue to perform or by coaching someone through starting her dream business, Patricia is excited and ready to help anyone willing to step up and ask. She inspires people to chase their dreams and to pursue what they want out of life through sharing her talents and life experiences and encouraging others to share theirs.
Written by: Katie Christ
June Volunteer of the Month: Jimmy Pitts
Jimmy Pitts loves sports almost as much as he loves service. Between coaching basketball and serving on the corporate board of the Boys and Girls Club of Rutherford County, Jimmy constantly looks to improve the lives of those around him. The work of every Boys and Girls Club focuses on the underprivileged youth, surrounding them with positive influences in their most formative years.
From an early age, Jimmy remembers playing every sport from soccer to baseball with what was then his local Boys and Girls Club in Florida. He enjoyed the competition, excitement, and teamwork. Later in life the values instilled in him through the sports began shining through his life decisions. In late 2010, he became involved with the sports program at Boys and Girls Club of Rutherford County at the Smyrna location and has been coaching ever since. However, Jimmy’s passion for sports is often shadowed by his love for the children. His volunteerism is not solely focused on sharing his love for sports, but rather is an attempt to surround Smyrna youth with positive values during the years they discover themselves.
Written by: Ryan Wilson
Marilin, Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month, with some of the people she serves at Possibility Place
Marilin Kelley is spreading love in Nashville. A recent Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) mathematics graduate, Marilin is preparing for graduate school at Virginia Tech in the Fall of 2019. In conversation with Marilin, her pursuit of knowledge is apparent, however her love for others shines more clearly than anything else. From nonprofit service with businesses such as Possibility Place and The Experience Community Church, Marilin consistently works to show others love; she is a clear example that volunteerism can give to the volunteer.
In high school, Marilin was a member and then officer of a service club. Working with organizations such as Salvation Army, Feed America First, and the Special Kids Therapy and Nursing Center encouraged her more serious involvement with volunteerism. She now works as a research assistant and substitute teacher at MTSU. Despite her aptitude for more technical studies, the social aspect of volunteering does not discourage Marilin. Rather, the diversity of volunteering inspires Marilin to learn more about her community and herself.
At Possibility Place Marilin helps developmentally disabled adults grow into independence. She also volunteers at The Experience Community Church, leading part of their middle school ministry. Marilin strives to bring love into her community, albeit in the classroom, church, or learning center. Service opens doors to see people and places one might not normally experience, and Marilin is constantly working to bring love into those unreached places.
Written by: Ryan Wilson
Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month: Lauranette Ford
Maya Angelou once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” She has found a way to put a deep truth of life to a poetic tune: no matter what we think we are saying or doing at any given moment, the way people perceive what we do is what they will remember. This quote is a central part of Lauranette Ford’s life as a volunteer in our beautiful city, one that deeply values music education.
Lauranette has found creative and impactful ways to touch people’s lives. She serves with many organizations in town, a highlight of which is the forthcoming National Museum of African American Music, which hasn’t opened its doors yet, but the entire team (of which Lauranette is both on staff in one department and volunteering for others) has been working for months to prepare a pivotal educational experience in the city where the pulse of music never ends. This undertaking requires many hours and work that is multi-faceted in its requirements, and Lauranette works hard to make sure people feel truly heard and loved through it all.