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Compassionate Heart

Monica-professional photoWritten 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.


Engineering Enthusiasm

Chuck SchlemmNashville’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.”

Through the Fire

Ndume Olatushani
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.

Prioritizing Your Passions

Written by: Kingsley East: 
Misty Woodford is a mom, a daughter, a real estate broker, and a volunteer. She leads a life full of caring for others, including her family and the community within her church and children’s school. Misty is passionate about many things, but her children are her top priorities when it comes to choosing how to invest her time. Extending from her family, Misty gives much of her time to the community and the causes surrounding it. Misty believes that the best way to impact and create change is to be involved.

Misty is an incredible example of a working mom who still values giving back to her community. She uses her skills and innovation to find volunteering outlets that align with her own passions and organizational abilities. Misty primarily volunteers at her children’s school through fundraising and training other parents there; however, she also leads a community group with her husband at their church. Misty is gifted in managing groups and events, and she loves to make teams operate more efficiently to meet their goals. Misty believes,

“It doesn’t matter how much time you have or what your skill set is, there’s a place for everyone.”

Misty explained that we’re all talented at something; so, people should use their gifts to improve their communities. We can’t all feed the homeless or go to nursing homes, but when you do something that you’re passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work. Then you get to encourage people more and impact those around you because you enjoy what you’re doing. 

The Road to Success

Coach M.1Coach Jermarus McInnis (seated, center)

Written by Kingsley East

“Instilling success today for a successful tomorrow.”

This is the slogan under which Coach McInnis operates his AAU basketball team, the Tennessee Panthers. Coach McInnis and his college roommate started the Tennessee Panthers nine years ago as an outlet for middle and high school boys. Because Coach McInnis grew up with mentors who invested in his life, he was able to mature and succeed in college. Therefore, he feels compelled to give back to his community in this same way. He said,

“My mindset is always, I have more to do.”

Coach McInnis sets out every day, on and off the court, with the goal to better the lives of young men. He constantly pushes his team towards championship games and academic success. Through discipline and accountability, Coach McInnis has enabled his players to achieve both of these rewards, but he doesn’t stop there. Coach McInnis’s response to boys who say that they will pay him back one day is simple. He tells them,

“The only thing you owe me is a college degree.”

A college degree is Coach McInnis’s main goal for his boys. To achieve this, Coach McInnis gives his time and money to invest in boys as they grow into men. Through weekly practices, weekend tournaments, and accountability, this team becomes a family. While Coach McInnis gets to be a part of each boy’s road to success, his humility keeps him focused on the future and everything he can do to help his players have a better life.

Asha, Lori & Ghandi

MTSU Chapter group photo.making cards

 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.”


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

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.