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.
Reality Edwards and Lauren Bellflower, Co-counselors and lifelong friends
Written by: Emerson Loudenback
Lauren Bellflower was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was 20 years old. Through various treatments and changes, Lauren found her way to Camp Oasis and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Camp Oasis specifically led Lauren to relationships with peers her age and younger who were also battling health issues. She says, “Living with an incurable chronic illness can leave you joyless at times, but happiness and hope are two things I have found through volunteering.”
Lauren works once a year at Camp Oasis as a counselor where she curates a week of activities and events for children who otherwise feel comfortable in their own skin and struggle to fit in. “We have campers (who) start out nervous (about the camp experience). Some have never (previously) met anybody else with their disease or ever really talked about it,” says Lauren. She particularly enjoys seeing campers as they start to open up and create bonds with counselors and with other children.
This is the seventh year Lauren will work as a camp counselor. Simultaneously she serves as a board member for the Tennessee Chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation by helping with fundraising and education events. Lauren understands may never fully understand the impact of her volunteering. Regardless, the humbling and compassionate moments experienced in both settings will forever remind her she finds hope and happiness through volunteering.
Sheila with daughter, Lensey
Yoga proved helpful in Sheila Habacker’s recovery from her bone marrow transplant. After fully recovering, she became certified as a yoga teacher where she learned she could teach yoga to the underserved. She is one of many who volunteer in this way with Small World Yoga. She says, “I don’t know if they ever think about it again or not. But, I hope it gives them a tool to create ways to relieve stress in their body and mind. To help them let go of something.”
She also says she does only what she can do, so she chooses to lead two classes. She teaches yoga to at-risk youth at Oasis Center as well as patients recovering from chemical dependency at Rolling Hills Hospital.
Not everyone can teach yoga, but most people have special talents or interests. Sheila says “it comes to down to identifying (how the volunteer) can be the most authentically helpful to people.” Additionally, “when you can give in a way that means something to you,” it is meaningful to both the volunteer and those receiving the services.
Jordan Thomas & one of the children he serves
Written by: Katie Christ
For Jordan Thomas, volunteering is not something he does on the side, it is a way of life. At the age of sixteen, Jordan suffered a horrible accident that completely changed his life as well as his perspective on life. This accident resulted in the loss of both of his legs, and it also resulted in the creation of The Jordan Thomas Foundation.
The foundation provides prosthetics to children whose families don’t have the means to do so due to the incredibly high cost of prosthetics. They are able to supply the kids with prosthetics until they reach the age of eighteen. Jordan explains seeing the children who benefit from his foundation running, playing, and living “normal lives” reaffirms their nonprofit mission, that they are doing something good and his hard work is completely worth it. He believes volunteering gives him a sense of meaning, purpose, and perspective in his life.
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
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
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: 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.
Nick Gambill with Leah Burris
Written by: Cole Gray
Nick Gambill grew up working with his hands. Building decks and remodeling homes throughout college prepared him to give back to the community in an unexpected way: fabricating running prosthetics for amputees, and giving them away for free.
Gambill is Doing Good’s Nashville Volunteer of the Month for his work with Amputee Blade Runners, an organization that gives free running prosthetics to amputees that seek to return to an active lifestyle post-amputation.
Health insurance doesn’t cover the cost of running prosthetics, which are necessary for amputees that want to maintain a physically fulfilling lifestyle. That’s where Amputee Blade Runners comes in.
Gambill builds the prosthetics himself. Jeff Belcher, a former tennis pro who lost both legs below the knee in 2013, said Nick’s work was highly important, giving purpose back to his life. Belcher recently received running prosthetics from Amputee Blade Runners.
“Nick’s like the kind of guy that likes to just be in the back,” Belcher said. “He likes to do all the work, but he would rather give somebody else credit when the credit is actually due to him.”
Gambill refuses to brag on himself. But Belcher will.
“He’s a good guy. There are not too many of those guys. Take it from me, I’ve been around a lot of people who may have said that they’ll help, and then have no follow-through whatsoever,” Belcher said. “Nick’s the kind of guy that, if he says he’s going to do something, or says he’s going to help with this or that, he’ll do it.”
By: Kingsley East
“By letting my light shine through volunteer work, I’m able to help others have a better quality of life- no matter where they are in their journey.” Brandi Nunnery lives to make the world a better place by meeting people where they are and serving them. Brandi is involved with a multitude of volunteer work that stems from her church, sorority involvement, and family life. Brandi says, “Whether I’m raising money for juvenile arthritis, serving my church on the board, organizing readers for Read Across America, or building a home for Habitat, I’m able to show enthusiasm and passion for helping others.”
Since 1993, Brandi has worked with her sorority Alpha Omicron Pi to raise support for the Arthritis Foundation. This philanthropy is dear to Brandi’s heart, as is her continued involvement with her sorority. Brandi currently serves as the President of the Nashville Area Alumnae Chapter for Alpha Omicron Pi. As she reflected on supporting arthritis research, Brandi said, “I’ve been able to raise money, organize teams for the Jingle Bell Run, walk in the Walk to Cure and, most importantly, hear the stories and MEET THE PEOPLE that we strive to support.”
At the Unity of Nashville Church, Brandi served as a board member for five years and as the Unity Build Coordinator for four builds. These positions enabled Brandi to play an active role in her church while reaching out to the community. For instance, Unity of Nashville works with Habitat for Humanity to build homes in the community. Some of Brandi’s best volunteering memories are from the work that she did with her daughter Parker at the Unity Build for Habitat for Humanity. Brandi includes her daughter in each of her volunteer efforts in order to instill a servant heart in Parker. She encourages others to let their lights shine because anything that you say or do has an impact on the community, your family, and even yourself. By volunteering, Brandi uses this power to make the lives that she encounters better.
Joyce Wisby volunteering at the Sunny Day Club
Written by: Kingsley East
Joyce Wisby is this month’s honored volunteer. From the age of sixty-one, Joyce spent a decade of her life fighting against and educating herself about Alzheimer’s disease because of her husband Jim’s diagnosis. Since Jim’s passing, Joyce continues to serve her community by educating others about Alzheimer’s, leading a support group, and heading up a fundraising organization through Bellevue Presbyterian Church. Joyce said, “When Jim passed away, I felt compelled to give back and help others grow in their faith as well as ease their life as they are on the Alzheimer’s journey.”
Joyce learned with Jim that no hardship has to ruin a relationship, and joy can be found in any circumstances. Now, she works every day to help others find hope and happiness in the midst of great trials. As a support group leader, Joyce is a resource to many, and she gets to be a part of a family that encourages one another to press on through hardships with a positive attitude. Joyce said, “I find much satisfaction in reaching out to others to help make their lives easier, rather than focusing on my needs. By helping others, I find contentment.”