Written by Zac Cooper
When people hear the word “non-profit,” it is more than likely that one of the first comments will be about the low salaries involved in community work. January’s Volunteer of the Month, Keena Alexander, is an example of a selfless individual who not only powers this community-building, but also understands its dire financials.
Keena grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and took pride in her community and city from a young age. She started working with Habitat for Humanity in high school and went on to earn a Master’s in Accountancy from the University of Mississippi. She currently works as a Senior Tax Analyst at Asurion.
As her main volunteering activity, Keena supports the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, an organization which supports community development in the fields of education, financial stability, and health. To give you a sense of its magnitude within Nashville, United Way provided $7.5 million in community program investments in 2016.
Keena volunteers with the Allocations Board, so her job is to interview different Nashville nonprofits to find which ones would be the best fit for United Way’s funding. Her holistic understanding of organizational budgets, from an accounting mindset, has given her even more motivation to volunteer. After seeing the high expenses and low salaries in many of the nonprofits functioning in Nashville, Keena notes that we can all give back more; it’s just a matter of our priorities.
The legendary boxer Muhammed Ali inspired Keena when he said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” She says in paying this service, she has “learned how to cultivate a heart of gratitude.”
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 Keena, Doing Good, or other volunteers, visit the website www.DoingGood.tv or @DoingGoodTV on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube.
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.”
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.
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?”
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.
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.”