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A Celebration of the Community

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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.

Taking the Initiative to Make a Difference

Cara Finger.Cara Finger, CEO and founder of non-profit organization, My Bag My Story

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.

How Sports Initiate Change

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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

July Nashville Volunteer of the Month

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Written By: Meg Provenzale

Jeremy Bradford has been nominated as July’s Volunteer of Month. His desire to give back to the community goes unnoticed in the many organizations he volunteers for. These organizations include, The Nashville Sports Council, The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Boys and Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, The Country Music Hall of Fame, and Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Jeremy’s drive to help others began at a young age when he started volunteering at his family’s church. Working as a youth leader as well as worship leader Jeremy emphasized how important the group of thirty students was to him, “I tried my best. It wasn’t because I wanted money it’s because I cared about those 22 or 25 and I wanted them to have an experience.  I wanted to take the initiative and give, even at that early age, give to that church.”

His childhood and the circumstances he grew up in inspired him to give back to others. “There are a lot of great people that have invested into my life whether it was in middle school, high school, my church or my parents so I just felt like it was time for me to give back as much as I could into the community of Nashville and to other people’s lives. I really felt that calling and that responsibility.”

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 Jeremy, Doing Good, or other volunteers, visit the website www.DoingGood.tv or @DoingGoodTV on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube

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Doing Good is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides marketing and public relations tools, resources, and opportunities to nonprofit and government agencies to celebrate their volunteers. www.DoingGood.tv

 

June Nashville Volunteer of the Month

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Written by: Meg Provenzale

Anna Claire Bowen has been named Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month. Anna Claire owns her own private practice and works as a Marriage and Family Therapist.  On top of her career, she has dedicated much of her time to organizations such as the Junior League of Nashville (JLN), Sexual Assault Center, Youth M.O.V.E. National, LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.

From an early age Anna Claire has always had a passion for helping her community. Recollecting on the first time she volunteered at her small town’s local food pantry, she explained the moment she realized she loved giving back.  “I just remember that feeling I got when I [volunteered], that warm fuzzy feeling. Ever since then I’ve been trying to catch that feeling. That’s how I got involved and something that is innate to me now.”

Residing in Nashville for almost 14 years, Anna Claire emphasized the city’s need for volunteers, “There are over 750 non-profit organizations just in Nashville; that doesn’t include Metro Nashville.  It’s difficult not to get involved and do volunteer work.” With a schedule as busy as hers, Anna Claire advises people wanting to volunteer to reach out to non-profits even if their contributions are as simple as stuffing and mailing envelopes or helping with behind the scenes projects.

Anna Claire explains that helping others, enables her to grow individually as well as professionally, “I can honestly say it has never been a tiring endeavor to follow my passions of giving of myself, it ends up being some type of personal or professional development.”

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 Anna Claire, Doing Good, or other volunteers, visit the website www.DoingGood.tv or @DoingGoodTV on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube

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Doing Good is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides marketing and public relations tools, resources, and opportunities to nonprofit and government agencies to celebrate their volunteers. www.DoingGood.tv

 

Walk Into Your Kingdom

200.200Carleigh 1By: Annie Low

Carleigh Frazier, this month’s Nashville Volunteer of the Month, is a senior Biology major at Fisk University. She recently had the pleasure of running for Miss Fisk University and her platform was based on Deuteronomy 1:5-8. This verse reminds her that in the midst of struggle and grief, “that my purpose is promised to me and that all I need to do is persevere.”

Carleigh used her campaign as a way to help others grow closer to God. When she didn’t win the title, she remained happy for the woman who won. She was able to do this by remembering that her plan is not God’s plan.

She is able to incorporate this idea into her work with Project Transformation and the  Nashville Rescue Mission. Carleigh works with children who don’t have the best opportunities and can be frustrated. She reminds them, “You are important, you are royalty. Your plan is already laid out for you, and it is good.”

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.

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.

Protector & Defender

Photo.Lynn Ewing.headshot

Lynn Ewing

“We are our brother’s keeper. What we do matters because it (how we treat others) does affect others,” says Lynn Ewing.

In Hebrew, “keeper” means more than “protector” or “defender.” Fortunately, Lynn exemplifies this every day. She lives out her definition of “protector” and “defender” through her volunteerism.

Lynn is a local mediator who uses her gift of communication to serve children throughout the community. She volunteers as a hands-on volunteer for Nashville Conflict Resolution Center and CASA Nashville as well as on the citizen volunteer Board of Directors for the Davidson County Foster Care Review. While each agency is separate and different, they share the same cause – assisting children in crisis.

“I want to share and ignite a passion and encourage people to volunteer!” she happily says.

Valerie McClain Sees the Power of One

Valerie McClain

Valerie McClain

It takes everyone’s involvement to create a community where all are served and have achieved self-sufficiency. This vision of Christian Community Services, Inc., (CCSI) is shared by Valerie McClain, Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for May, and she’s doing her part to build on the Power of One.

“You don’t have to have a lot of money to help people better themselves,” Valerie says. “We all just have to help one another however we can.”

Valerie has volunteered weekly for the past fourteen years as a tutor for the middle and high school children whose families are receiving basic financial training and mentoring in the CCSI program. These families are working to become financially independent with homebuyers’ education classes throughout the year in the first of the CCSI’s five-year program. CCSI’s goal is to empower underserved families to achieve a legacy of social, spiritual and economic self-sufficiency.

In the CCSI tutoring program called P.A.S.S., Valerie helps young people with their homework and in activities that teach them life-skills. She encourages them to succeed in all areas of their personal, academic, and spiritual life. “I prefer the young people because it’s a joy for me to help them to be their best,” Valerie says. “Even more than tutoring it is mentoring – helping the kids figure out how to focus and helping them decide what to do next. That’s what I did when I was raising my two daughters,” she said.

Valerie was inspired to start tutoring by her pastor. “He kept preaching about making a commitment to serve. I heard my inner voice say, ‘Valerie, now’s the time for you to start serving’.” That was 14 years ago when she started in the tutoring program at Schrader Lane Church of Christ. But she felt her talents could be better utilized in the CCSI program that was also supported by the church.

“I’m so honored to be able to serve and invite you to join me as a volunteer at CCSI or any other non-profit organization that can use your talents,” Valerie said. “Listen to that voice within and make a commitment to serve somewhere!”

Doing Good is proud to recognize Valerie McClain, an employee of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, as Nashville’s Volunteer of theMonth for May.

Join the Conversation:  Who inspires you to volunteer? What community service gives you joy?

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.