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Advocating for his community

Keith McLeanKeith McLean
Written by: Cole Gray

Keith McLean of Franklin is Doing Good’s Nashville Volunteer of the Month for his work in advocating for the North Nashville community around Jefferson Street.

McLean, a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, is involved with Jefferson Street United Merchants’ Partnership, Elam Mental Health Center at Meharry Medical College and The SONS Organization (Solving Our Negative Stereotypes), all of which focus on different aspects of advocacy around North Nashville, but ultimately relate to community development.

Where does his passion come from? McLean cites his mother as one of his biggest influences. A longtime social worker, she created a school-partnered backpack program for underprivileged children that enabled them to eat on weekends. But after college, he found himself in the for-profit worlds of the music, healthcare and finance industries.

Attending the Temple Church in North Nashville, however, caused McLean to adopt the North Nashville community, particularly Jefferson Street, a hub of minority-owned businesses and predominantly black residents.

“I was looking for something to be involved in in Nashville that spoke to people that looked like myself,” McLean said. “Me, myself, I am black. I wanted to speak to something that spoke to the black community.”

The many facets of McLean’s volunteer work are making him a pillar of his adopted North Nashville community.

One Person at a Time

Pastor Marc Hewlett

Pastor Marc Hewlett Stopping Human Trafficking

Like many in Music City, Marc Hewlett began as a musician. Yet he was also an alcoholic, drug addict, and general trainwreck. On one particular morning, he woke up underneath a bush in the pouring rain. After hitting his rock bottom, he turned his life around.

Today, his life includes ending human trafficking, a global industry of over $249 billion. Yet his approach is to Prevent, Reach, Love, and Rescue each man and woman, one at a time. He achieves his goal by volunteering with several, local organizations including the INSPIRE Freedom Project, INSPIRE Kids Nashville, and MDHA, Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, of Nashville.

“It is in my heart. I love everybody – I don’t pick and choose.”

He’s “seen it all,” from those who’ve been on the streets for years to children unknowingly being recruited as future drug dealers. It is only “the tip of the iceberg,” he says. It starts when a drug dealer befriends a group of children and coaches them to sell candy bars “for their basketball team” in a parking lot. Each child who brings in $100 is fed a meal and given $20. This seemingly simple treat is a proven recruiting tool to find, train, and gain the trust of future drug dealers.

To reach both children and adults, he is one of two men and two women with the INSPIRE Freedom Project who go out two nights each week to the most highly trafficked areas around – including Murfreesboro Pike, West Trinity Lane, and Harding Place. The four visit those who are most at risk of being trafficked, homeless, or addicts and build relationships through love. They arrive armed – with hand-written cards, words of encouragement, open hearts, and a rose.

Despite local dangers in this worldwide issue, Marc is one man in Nashville tackling this overwhelming issue right at home – one person at a time.

Reading is Fundamental to a Nashville Volunteer

Students from Jennifer Ward's Pre-First classroom at Kirkpatrick Enhanced Option School

Students from Jennifer Ward’s Pre-First classroom at Kirkpatrick Enhanced Option School

Lynn Vincent has been a volunteer with Book’em since 2009 and is named Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for November for her hard work and dedication. For information about Lynn or nominating a friend for Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month, visit http://www.DoingGood.tv.

Nominated by Martha Ann Pilcher, Coordinator of Volunteers for Book’em, “Each year, we ask our Reading Is FUNdamental (RIF) volunteers to visit an assigned classroom at a Title I school five (5) times throughout the school year to read to low-income students and distribute a book for every child in the classroom to keep as his or her own. For many children, this is the first book they have ever had. …Lynn is a RIF volunteer and reads to a kindergarten classroom at Caldwell Enhanced Option School, a Title I elementary school. Lynn, despite having a busy career as a successful graphic designer…, has visited her RIF classroom approximately 18 times this school year. That’s thirteen more visits than she committed to making.”

“For Lynn, reading with her children is all about opening doors and inspiring a love of reading.” Lynn explains, ”Education and the love of reading have been a strong message through my family dating back to my grandfather starting his own school at the turn of the century, to becoming a high school principal and eventually a state educator. His daughter, my mother, always stressed that reading was the road to success. The children I get to visit and bring books to in the schools in which I read don’t have the advantage of successful expectations, they just love having special moments with someone who cares. If they do pick up the passion and share that love with their brothers and sisters, even their parents, then the word spreads and everyone benefits.” One way she expresses this passion is through an example Pilcher shared as a great idea for the upcoming holiday season. “Lynn supplements the five books the children receive from our program with additional books she purchases specifically for them. For Christmas, each child received a stuffed Velveteen Rabbit or Toto from the Wizard of Oz and the accompanying book.”

Pilcher says, “Lynn has made her time volunteering in this program…(with) loads of fun and laughter. … She stands apart from other volunteers based on her willingness to always ask, “What else can I do? How can I do more?” These simple questions lead to the children in her classrooms really beginning to connect the dots. They see that reading leads to learning.

“We talk about writing and authors. Being a designer, we pick books with different illustrator types and what each drawing style brings to the story. I work with printer friends to supply journals for the second half of the year so they can start writing and drawing their own stories. We read chapter books, like Charlotte’s Web and talk about the characters and the imagery the author weaves into each line. It is also fun to remember back and define each character and where we were when we stopped the last chapter…like a dramatic cliffhanger. By the end of the year, the children are fully engaged and tuned into books they pick and the stories they read. Book’em provides the opportunity to bring books to kids to have for their very own, to take home, oftentimes the only books they have in their home. It provides us the time to read and share, to learn each child and make a human connection. This distinguishes Book’em to not only provide the books but to also take the time with our readers to really sit in the classroom and make connections with the kids and the teachers and see what their needs are,” says Lynn.

-The above is from the press release and not an interview. Karen, the Doing Good blogger, will return for future blogs soon. Thank you for understanding.

BJ Givens Volunteers Because “It’s Up to Me”

BJ Givens

There are many issues that need to be addressed in our community, but B.J. Givens believes in making authentic, real change that begins when our youth are properly educated.  “Education is my personal conviction,” B.J. says. “It’s up to me to do something about it; and my faith calls me to use my talents and abilities to help those who may not already realize the potential within themselves.”

He’s doing something about it by serving as a member of the Board of Directors of Purpose Prep, a new Charter School located in Nashville’s Metro Center.  The school currently services 92 kindergarten students, primarily from the North Nashville area.  Purpose Prep will add one grade per year until 2017, when it will have kindergarten through fourth grade.

B.J. works for Parallon, Inc., a subsidiary of HCA headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee. He learned about Purpose Prep when he reconnected with a former grad school classmate who serves as Board Chairman.  “I was so excited about Purpose Prep that I called my friend the next day and asked him how I could get involved,” he exclaimed.  Reflecting on the students of Purpose Prep and his own similar childhood he said, “I believe in these scholars just as someone once believed in me.”

For the past year he has served as Board Secretary and on the Resource Development Committee.  That committee’s goal is to raise approximately $300,000 a year, in addition to public funding, to afford the academic enrichment needs of the scholars.

He listens and reaps new riches 

For B.J., volunteering isn’t just about giving, it’s also about learning.  “I’ve learned the importance of understanding the true need of the person or people I am trying to help,” he says.  “What I think is needed may not necessarily be what’s actually needed.  I’ve learned that it is critical to listen first, and then move forward with my efforts.  I’ve also gained many impactful insights into my own life by helping others. I come away from each experience richer and more fulfilled.  I love working with the children we serve, not just helping in the administration and fund raising.  That’s where the rubber meets the road and what feeds my heart.” B.J. says.

In addition to his first love and passion for Purpose Prep, B.J. is heavily involved with Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence, an economic development organization in Tennessee that works to help organizations of all sizes improve operational efficiency and effectiveness.  He serves as a Board Examiner, working directly with companies across Tennessee to help assess where improvements can be made in areas of operations, human resources and organizational development.  The ultimate goal is to help the organizations succeed to create more jobs in Tennessee.   B.J. also volunteers through his church on various projects in and around the Nashville community, as the need arises.

Doing Good is proud to recognize B.J. Givens as Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for March.

Join the Conversation:  Where do you like to roll up your sleeves?  What issues call you to action? What do you learn from volunteering?  What wouldn’t get done if you didn’t go it?

Blog Written by:  Karen E. Williams, a volunteer with Doing Good, an organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism.  The website is www.DoingGood.tv.  Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month is a free program which educates and inspires others to volunteer by sharing stories of local volunteers through media partners.

Partying for Kids Makes Toby Lemley’s Heart Sing

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When Toby Lemley moved to Nashville 17 years ago he saw the generosity of the Nashville community and began to understand the value of giving back.  Most recently he used his resources as a local representative of WorldVentures to build a DreamCourt for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee. 

Toby rallied his WorldVentures co-workers and his company’s foundation to raise $23,600 to build a DreamCourt for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee.  Most of the money came from a “Dream Night” party he hosted at the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville.

The sports court opened in October 2013 for at-risk youth who participate in programs at the Andrew Jackson Boys & Girls Club as well as the neighborhood kids.  The children can play basketball and other team sports, interact socially and learn valuable life lessons such as teamwork, good sportsmanship and competition.

“The DreamCourt will give our kids an opportunity to develop their basketball, tennis and volleyball skills and learn new ways to keep active and healthy,” says John D. Winnet, chief development & external affairs officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee.

But DreamCourt is only one project that Toby has spearheaded.  One year on his birthday he hosted a Hollywood Studio54-themed party with 1000 guests benefiting Big Brothers/Big Sisters programs.  For a period of time he owned and operated a music venue on Eighth Avenue in Nashville where he hosted several different parties benefiting children, including a Revenge of the Nerds birthday party, music events and cook-offs for Make-A-Wish Foundation, Toys for Tots, Hands on Nashville and others.  He also incorporated an online campaign to add to the proceeds benefiting Hands On Nashville so they could help more people affected by the Nashville flood in 2010.

“I volunteer because it’s so rewarding and fulfilling,” says Toby.  “I’ve learned that most nonprofits survive because of volunteers.  Without volunteers things wouldn’t get done. And I want to do things where I can see and enjoy the local benefits of doing good. I didn’t realize just how much fulfillment one can get by volunteering,” he said.

The Nashville DreamCourt project was the sixth such project in the country.  It was such as success that WorldVentures teams in Denver duplicated the fundraising efforts of Toby and his colleagues to open the seventh DreamCourt.   The Foundation is planning five more DreamCourt openings in 2014.  “With Toby’s leadership, the Nashville team created the inspiration and momentum for so many other DreamCourt teams across the country!” exclaims Lori Streiff, Fundraising Director at the WorldVentures Foundation.

DreamCourts Nationwide Project is a partnership of the WorldVentures Foundation, Nancy Lieberman Foundation, NBA, NBACares and Connor Sport Court International.   WorldVentures Foundation Executive Director Gwyneth Lloyd credits dedicated volunteers like Toby as the the driving force behind the Foundation.  They are making a huge impact on lives in communities close to home and around the world.

Doing Good is proud to recognize Toby Lemley as Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for December.

Join the Conversation:  Why do you volunteer?  Have you helped build a sports court or a playground?  When? Where?  Where is your heart?  Helping children? Helping the elderly?  Advocating for the less fortunate? Supporting a cause that has personal meaning to you such as defeating cancer, ALS, MS, etc?

Blog Written by:  Karen E. Williams, a volunteer with Doing Good, an organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism.  The website is www.DoingGood.tv.  Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month is a free program which educates and inspires others to volunteer by sharing stories of local volunteers through media partners.