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.
Written by: Emerson Loudenback
Fifteen-year-old Leah Kennedy is a student at Fairview High School, but that’s not all she is. Since fourth grade, the young leader has been heavily involved in the county fair, specifically the Williamson County Fair, as well as local 4-H programs. Her personal experience is with raising and showing chickens, but Leah has grown and learned a lot by helping in other areas of the fair.
As a fair volunteer, Leah has watched and participated in the process of caring for and showing animals, both in and out of the barn. “Once I saw all the work that went into this event, I felt I needed to serve my community and give back to them,” says Leah. Areas of the fair, including the youth art section, the show ring and the Funnel Cake 5k, are other places Leah participates and volunteers in, setting up and managing different events and locations all over the fairground. Her passion for the animals and for the local community fuels Leah’s excitement for the fair each year and for any and all opportunities to serve. In addition to the barns, Leah also works with children, teaching them about the animals and agriculture. “I love working with little kids and seeing their faces light up. It is the most rewarding thing,” says Leah. It’s this same kind of excitement that has led Leah to consider a career in agriculture.
Leah’s passion for the animals and for volunteering has brought her to the Williamson County Junior Fair Board, where she has served as Secretary and as Vice Chairman. Both positions have fostered her leadership skills and informed her knowledge of the tremendous work that goes into the fair each year. Not surprisingly, Leah loves all of the chances she finds to “get out there and help” wherever she is needed, whether in big or small ways. Even now, amid global pandemic crises, Leah has found ways to help her community, making and delivering masks for local EMS workers and also family members. Leah is an inspiration to the youth in our community, and we are proud to name her Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month.
Written by: Emerson Loudenback
“The good we do always comes back to us,” says Zarita Fears, this month’s Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month. Zarita has been a motivated volunteer since she was a child when she helped supply local shelters and even tutored other children. Just as her mother instilled in her the value of “small acts of kindness,” she has continued her family tradition by raising her daughter in service work around local shelters. Zarita has consistently made it a point to serve others.
She has been lucky, as she says, to turn her passion into her career. She currently works as a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist for the Employee Resource Groups (ERG) at Asurion and volunteers as a board member for the local chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America. In addition, Zarita serves various nonprofits in the Nashville area on her own time. She remarks she is reminded of the work she has done by a remark someone makes or when running into someone she has helped. “Even if no one remembers my name,” she says, “the differences I have made will affect generations to come.”
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.
“Serving others has always been a passion of mine and I will always make service over self a priority,” says Corey Alexander, Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for October. This generous, giving young professional started as a young athlete, became a two-sport athlete at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, volunteered for a variety of nonprofits and discovered his joy of serving young people and helping them achieve their goals. In response to that, he founded the 501c3 nonprofit College Bound Athletics (CBA) where they help young athletes and their families take the right steps to achieve collegiate goals. “I feel that we all have a duty to give back to others who may be in need or who are less fortunate than we are.”
Sports are part of who Corey is at his core, and he continues his passion as an adult by coaching young people and weight lifting. He also lives in Nashville, works as the CFO of Ross Behavioral Group, and lives with his wife and two dogs named Blue and Bailey.
Corey gives back in areas outside of sports throughout our community and the world. Locally he has volunteered with the American Red Cross Nashville Area, Habitat of Greater Nashville, the Ross Center Foundation for Mental Health, the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and The Frist Arts Museum where he serves on the board. After his being named an upcoming Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month, he began serving on the board of Doing Good where he helps this entrepreneurial nonprofit achieve its goals.
Globally Corey and his wife serve on mission trips to Kenya through Cross Point Church. “There is always someone in need, and God gave me hands to work and heart to help.”
Written by: Zac Cooper
Nashville’s March Volunteer of the Month is Erik Lindsey, a man with many passions and engagements around Nashville. Erik started his first business at 18 and is now the founder of Sound Planning Partners, a financial services firm based in Nashville.
Although there are many people who define themselves by their work, it would certainly be dishonest to introduce Erik as a wealth advisor. Erik has a variety of interests in fitness, nutrition, children, and travel, as well as an outrageous number of volunteering engagements around Nashville, including VICC Ambassadors, NeedLink, Friends of Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, NENA, Nashville Classical Charter School, as well as various other one-off volunteer events. For Erik, the “purpose of life is a life of purpose,” and there is no doubt that he embodies this driven lifestyle.
His two main outputs into the greater community are VICC Ambassadors and NeedLink. VICC Ambassadors is a group of young professionals that fundraises for innovative cancer research. Erik serves as a membership committee chair, focusing on building membership and educating new prospective members on the role of the organization. Erik works within multiple roles within NeedLink, an organization that provides emergency financial assistance to those in need. He is the Secretary of the executive committee, chair of the fundraising committee, and engages with the NeedLink community grant distribution process.
“I volunteer because I want to change the world around me by improving the lives of others. It also feels great to spend some of my time impacting the lives of my neighbors.” Erik is now campaigning for the 2018 Man of the Year through The Leukemia & Lymphoma society and you can contribute to his efforts to fight blood cancer.
Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month is a program of Doing Good, a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization which educates and inspires people by celebrating the real stories of real people who volunteer. For additional information about Erik, Doing Good, or other volunteers, visit the website www.DoingGood.tv or @DoingGoodTV on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube.
Written by: Annie Low
Monica Cooley is this month’s honored volunteer because she posses the qualities it takes to be an excellent volunteer. John Wesley once said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” Not only does Monica love and believe in this quote, she also strives to live by it everyday. Monica is kind, trustworthy, and an upstanding citizen in her community, which are all characteristics Monica believes a good volunteer should have.
Monica grew up with parents who valued loving and serving others and she has carried that into her adult life as well. Not only does she like serving, but she also enjoys being able to see the change she has made and to know she was part of making someone else’s life better.
Whether it is serving at the Global Education Center as a dance instructor or on the Board for the Global Education Center or even as a tour guide and host family for the Sri Ganesha Temple, Monica serves others without thinking of how it benefits her.
Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month Chuck Sclemm
Written by: Kingsley East
“I volunteer to help inspire students to pursue science and technology interests which will improve their lives and our culture, and to educate the public about space science and space exploration and the excitement of new possibilities.” This month’s honored volunteer is Chuck Schlemm, an engineer, astronomer, and space enthusiast. Chuck has been an engineer for forty years, astronomer for twenty years, and a volunteer for decades. Chuck volunteers with various space organizations like the Middle Tennessee Space Society, Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory, and the Adventure Science Center. Through each of these groups, Chuck hopes to reach a young generation of students who can shape the world and be a part of new discoveries and technologies.
Chuck hopes that as the space program grows, it will offer more people hope for the future and a positive way to find new energy sources. His volunteer work centers on making space exhibits and talking to kids about their potential and passion for learning and exploration. He said that connecting with kids who are clearly passionate about a specific area of math or science makes volunteering worth it. Chuck encourages others to use their passions to reach children and help shape their futures, as he said, “In general, anyone who wants to share their passions or career fields ought to share that with kids to get them enthused and show them how to use what they’re learning in school.”
Emily with her mom, Julie
Written by: Cole Gray
Doing Good’s Nashville Volunteer of the Month Emily Fay is passionate about the University of Nebraska and serving others. In 2007, two years after moving to Nashville, she decided to combine her passions by founding Nashville Huskers, a nonprofit alumni association that has used member dues and merchandise sales to raise $18,000 in scholarship for Tennessee high school students looking to attend the University of Nebraska.
“I just wanted to watch football with other Nebraskans. That’s what it was when I started,” said Fay. She missed being surrounded by other Cornhuskers after growing up in a University of Nebraska household in Loveland, Colo., then attending Nebraska, and finally ending up in a sea of SEC fans in Nashville. So, back in 2007, Fay sent out some Facebook message cold-calls and 80 fans showed up to watch a football game.
Fast-forward eight seasons, and Nashville Huskers has hosted over 100 watch parties and over 10,000 guests. Though it started on Facebook, it’s now an official Nebraska Alumni chapter, and the community Fay started is supporting Middle Tennessee’s students.
“We want to send more people to the Big Ten, and we want to send more people to Nebraska because it’s one of the flyover states. People forget about it. It’s a beautiful campus with so much opportunity there. They’re doing amazing research, they’re doing wonderful things on campus, and to be able to send someone here in that direction just excites me. There’s so much opportunity.”
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.