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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
VSA Tennessee Ambassadors
Asha Patel, a junior at MTSU, was encouraged by MTSU Communications Professor Lori Kissinger to look into the collegiate chapter of VSA Tennessee. She is one of many VSA Ambassadors who serve children, teenagers and young adults with disabilities. “This past fall, the group has had more student participants than at any time in the four year history of the group. They have also had more programs and activities to reach out to the community. It has been wonderful to see the group thrive and grow. Its success is greatly due to Asha,” says Lori Kissinger, Executive Director.
A native of India, Asha is trilingual! She is achieving a double major at MTSU in Political Science and International Relations. Prior to VSA Tennessee, she had not previously volunteered. Yet one person suggested she get look into VSA Tennessee. She did, and she “decided to stay.”
Asha considers Ghandi an educational role model. As he said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”