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
“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.”
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: Kingsley East
“To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). Martin Plumlee says that he is blessed with a selfless wife, healthy and happy children, a growing business, and good health. Additionally, Martin has the honor and privilege of serving his country and wearing the uniform again in the Army Reserves in Nashville. Martin uses each of these blessings to give his time and talents to others. Martin said, “It is my sincerest belief that if more citizens would give back and pour their time and resources into their local communities, the nation would be better.”
Martin puts these words into action as he serves on the board of directors for REBOOT Combat Recovery and Habitat for Humanity. Martin is passionate about the military, and specifically about helping veterans transition from combat to civilian life. REBOOT works to build a community of support around vets while healing them both physically and spiritually. Martin’s other main passion is economic empowerment. Therefore, he serves underprivileged families by working to provide them with homes and opportunities through Habitat. Martin challenges himself and others by saying, “There are 165 hours in a week. How do you use those hours to make your little piece of the world better?”
As a Senior Business Operations Manager at Deloitte in Nashville Pam Webster is used to simultaneously juggling numerous projects with lots of moving parts. Fortunately for Nashville her leadership efforts are devoted not only to business projects, but to numerous volunteer projects as well.
In her current volunteer project Pam is serving as a group leader for Deloitte’s Impact Day – a national day of community service honoring Deloitte’s commitment to workplace volunteerism and celebrating its culture of community service. As she has done for the past nine years, this year Pam is once again organizing nearly 125 fellow employees to clear trails, do landscaping, build picnic tables and stain fences for Nashville Greenways in Hermitage, as well as other projects.
In addition to leading Deloitte’s Impact Day project, Pam has spent time handing out water in the pouring and freezing rain to participants in the Music City Marathon, helped build a house for Habitat for Humanity, served as captain for a fundraising walk, and served on the March of Dimes Board of Directors. Plus she supports the United Way and the March of Dimes with her personal contributions. She has also volunteered with Leadership Donelson-Hermitage and with the Young Leaders Council in Nashville.
Why Pam Volunteers
“I was taught from a young age to lend a hand to those in need. So I have always given money when I could and volunteered my time when needed. However, it wasn’t until the birth of my twin daughters that I really found a purpose,” Pam says. “You see, they were born three months prematurely, which gave me a new meaning in my life. This is what steered me to volunteering with the March of Dimes and to eventually sitting on their Board of Directors.
“Then when I started working at Deloitte I found that volunteer opportunities were abundant. The company not only encourages us to volunteer, it also supports our volunteer efforts,” she says. In the Nashville area Deloitte supports some 15 different non-profit organizations on Impact Day and 27 different agencies throughout the year.
Pam says that she gets so much more from volunteering than what she puts into it. “I always give 110 percent! So my return on investment is huge. I love seeing the results of our efforts and being able to help others! And, I love the wide variety of volunteering opportunities that come along.”
Doing Good is proud to recognize Pamela Webster as Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for June 2014.
Join the Conversation: What life event has given you purpose? What company do you know that supports volunteerism? What projects are they involved with? What projects are you involved with? What do you like best about volunteering?
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.
Pam Lewis says that volunteering and giving back was instilled in her as a kid by both of her parents, especially her dad who, as one of eleven children, had a compassionate heart for the common guy. “Both he and mom gave back to their church and community, various charities over the years, and always tithed,” she said. “I was taught to be frugal, work hard, set goals and succeed, but not to be obsessed with possessions. My mom, now 77, still volunteers at her local hospital, so I guess it’s just in my DNA.”
She related a story about how her father drilled home the message that every person is worthy. “After visiting an amazing exhibit of Vincent Van Gogh paintings in New York City,” she said, “my dad intentionally drove us through the Bowery, only a few blocks away from the art museum to show us the Bowery bums and to remind us that ‘there but by the Grace of God go I.’ I’ve never forgotten that trip.”
In addition to running her Music Row media company in Nashville, Pam is involved in a number of local charities and public service organizations. She served as Alderman for the City of Franklin and sat on the Planning Commission, Historic Zoning Commission and numerous other committees while in office. She currently serves on the Battlefield Commission and the Housing Commission in Williamson County. She also serves on the Tennessee Preservation Trust and First Lady Andrea Conte’s You Have the Power Boards of Directors, and her office does pro-bono work for various charities and causes like Crossroad Campus and Emmylou Harris’ Bonaparte’s Retreat and her upcoming concert, Woofstock.
But Pam’s favorite volunteer work is with the BRIDGES Domestic Violence Center of Williamson County and the Tennessee State Museum.
BRIDGES is the only domestic violence center in the county. And even though Williamson County is considered a wealthy community, “I’ve seen that domestic violence transcends a family’s economic situation,” Pam said. BRIDGES serves women, men, and their children affected by domestic violence, ensuring a safe transition to successful independent living through education, intervention, and case management.
Pam’s work at the Tennessee State Museum supports her interest in children and in the humanities. “I love working with this organization because it’s free to the public and especially to school children from across the State. The State Museum bridges their classroom work to the real people who created the works of art, to their/our forbearer’s who experienced life in a different era, and to those men and women who fought many different battles for noble causes including the Civil War and for Civil Rights. It brings history and art alive and it creates a sense of community pride!” she says. Pam’s dream is to help build a new State Museum where more of the artifacts owned by the museum can be exhibited.
Another way Pam is working to help children understand their heritage is through her work to restore the Flagg Grove School which was moved to the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, Tennessee in 2012. The school was an African-American school built at Nutbush, Tennessee in 1889. It began as a subscription school where each student paid $1 per month to attend. The money was used to pay the teacher. Singer Tina Turner attended the school as a child. Since moving to Brownsville, with the generous donations of materials and a lot of volunteer labor, the building has been stabilized and “put in the dry.”
Pam has created a personal foundation and is working with the “Friends of the Delta Heritage Center” to raise $75,000 to restore the inside of Flagg Grove School building to make it presentable as an interpretive center for Early African-American education as well as highlighting the students who attended, such as Tina Turner. She invites you to get more information about the project at http://www.westtnheritage.com/flagggrove.html.
Doing Good is pleased to recognize Pam Lewis, a resident of Williamson County, as the Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month for August.
Is Volunteering in your DNA? Who has influenced you to volunteer? Please join the conversation.
Doing Good is a new organization committed to promoting volunteerism in Metro Nashville by telling the stories of local volunteers through various media, including radio, television, print and the Internet. By educating and inspiring others about volunteerism, Doing Good seeks to increase volunteer involvement.
Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month is a free program produced by Doing Good. Nominations may be submitted to recognize any Nashville area volunteer for the good they do in the community.
Doing Good services are free to non-profit and government agencies.
Volunteer of the Month nominations and donations to Doing Good are accepted at www.DoingGood.tv.
You’ve retired from your primary career. You’ve found your second half in another field – something like real estate, for example – and you know that work and money aren’t the sum and substance of your life. So now what do you do?
For Harold and Carol Plemons, parents of two boys with two grandchildren, the answer came on two different, yet similar tracks.
First, they became foster parents of two siblings, ages 3 months and 20 months for an 18-month period – working with Foster Care, a program of the Department of Children’s Services (DCS). Even though they’re no longer serving as foster parents, Carol and Harold continue to personally support children in foster care by providing diapers, beds, toys and other items needed by families with foster children. “It’s so hard to be a foster parent,” Carol said. “This is just one small way we can help.”
But assisting foster children isn’t the only way the Plemons volunteer. Their second track was to turn their pre-retirement part-time real estate business into a full-time business. As part of their business they are using their skills and talents to assisting low-income persons and the marginalized members of our society find AFFORDABLE and PERMANENT housing. They work with several agencies to assist in finding affordable properties for their clients to rent or buy. Agencies they work with include Nashville CARES, Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA), the Veterans Administration Supporting Housing Program (HUD-VASH), Magdalene House and Thistle Farms, and Shelter Plus.
For Harold and Carol it’s more than a business. When asked why they volunteer Harold quickly replied, “We felt that we were so fortunate. We just saw a need and decided to help. We are able to use our experience to help low-income people with little education, people who are mentally challenged in some way, or people who are battling addictions. We’re able to purchase homes through the HUD Section 8 program and provide affordable housing for them. These are people who don’t typically pass a background check and many rental agents are unwilling to rent to them,” he said.
In addition to helping these people find a home through their real estate business, the Plemons also personally assist the tenants by donating furniture and supplies to help them get set up in the home, along with food and clothing. This is where the different tracks of foster care and real estate services come together for the Plemons – volunteering personally to provide the items that both groups need to thrive in their new circumstances.
“We have tenants call us every day to thank us for getting them into affordable housing,” Carol said. “One homeless veteran hadn’t slept in a bed for two years until he moved into the house we were able to locate for him. But the best day was when a 5-year-old girl hugged us and thanked us for finding a place for her grandfather to live. That’s a worry and burden that a small child shouldn’t have to bear,” she said.
Harold and Carol offer advice to anyone looking to volunteer. Work with organized charities they say. That way you will be assisting people who have been screened and are working to get back on their feet.
“You don’t need a PhD to volunteer,” Harold says. “Just be willing to help people. The benefits we get are not financial, they’re much deeper.”
“When you get a hug, that’s the biggest payment you can get,” Carol added. “You’re at the highest when you lean down to pick someone else up!”
Doing Good salutes Harold and Carol Plemons as Nashville’s Volunteers of the Month for June. Congratulations!
What is your passion? Is it assisting the homeless, helping children, or working for a health-related charity? Something else? Join the conversation on why you volunteer!
Well hello there, my name is Donna. It’s so nice to meet you!
I’d like to share a little bit about Safe Haven Family Shelter and “our” story. Safe Haven is the only “family” shelter in Nashville, where a family can stay together. I started volunteering there about 10 years ago. Compared to many, many people, my level of volunteering is actually pretty weak. I mean they have these amazing super-volunteers who stay overnight once a week or more and give so much more of their time and energy…all I do is show up once a month (along with other volunteers from Hands On Nashville) and bring dinner. But it’s so awesome!
I am naturally an introvert, but I love to cook for people, so this has always been the perfect opportunity for me. Volunteers from all different types of groups and organizations provide meals for Safe Haven 365 nights a year. Hands On Nashville has two nights each month and one of them is mine to coordinate. I have a couple of “regulars” who normally sign up to help, then usually a couple of newbies will sign up. The new volunteers are always fun, because I’m sure most show up there a little nervous, with no idea what to expect. They get to meet people, learn about the program, and leave with a new enthusiasm. Safe Haven is not at all what you would picture when you think “homeless shelter”. It may be temporary, but it is still a “home”.
For the most part, residents of Safe Haven are just like you and me. They are not chronically homeless, they just hit hard times and got to the point they couldn’t bounce back on their own. Maybe they were working hard, but just barely getting by, when their car breaks down. Without transportation, they can’t get to work, lose their job, can’t pay rent, can’t afford to get the car fixed, can’t get a job without a car, get evicted…just a vicious downward spiral. Safe Haven gives them an opportunity to get back on their feet and learn ways to manage their families more efficiently. Families who complete the Safe Haven program have a very high success rate. Many of them have been so thankful for the opportunity that they have come back as volunteers. I can only imagine how unnerving it would be to move your family and belongings into a shelter, but then how comforting to talk to someone who had been in your exact position, made it through, and is now thriving.
My three favorite things about dinner at Safe Haven are the volunteers, the residents, and the food. I have met so many interesting people who came to volunteer over the years…college students, single parents, ministers, attorneys, chefs…you name it. I’ve also made several friends, including one of my very best friends! People usually have a specific reason for volunteering and leave feeling better than when they got there.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m an introvert. Sometimes it’s challenging for me to strike up conversations with people, but something I’ve noticed is no matter who I eat dinner across from that night, we will find something in common. Last week, I was chatting with a cool teenage girl about her choice to not eat meat (I did that for five years.) Other times common ground has been religion or families or careers or favorite foods. Everyone has a story, sometimes you just have to ask a few questions to get to it.
Finally…FOOD. We always have good food! Sometimes we’ll do Mexican Fiesta and sometimes we go more traditional and have chicken breasts, beef roast, or pork tenderloin. Mmm…makes me hungry to think about it!
Okay, enough about me. What about you? Do you volunteer? If so, what is your story? And if not, what is holding you back?