July Volunteer of the Month: Patricia Leonard
Patricia Leonard is extremely passionate about empowering women. In her corporate, volunteer, and personal life her goal is to “inspire women to break through any glass ceilings through leadership and contribution.” She believes that talk is not enough – we have to act in order to empower. This is played out specifically in her volunteer life through her work with Nashville Women in Film & Television where she serves on the board and Dress for Success where she volunteers as a coach.
A unique characteristic about Patricia is her ability to listen to other people’s desires and to help make those desires a reality. Whether is it giving someone an avenue to perform or by coaching someone through starting her dream business, Patricia is excited and ready to help anyone willing to step up and ask. She inspires people to chase their dreams and to pursue what they want out of life through sharing her talents and life experiences and encouraging others to share theirs.
Written by: Katie Christ
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
Marilin, Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month, with some of the people she serves at Possibility Place
Marilin Kelley is spreading love in Nashville. A recent Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) mathematics graduate, Marilin is preparing for graduate school at Virginia Tech in the Fall of 2019. In conversation with Marilin, her pursuit of knowledge is apparent, however her love for others shines more clearly than anything else. From nonprofit service with businesses such as Possibility Place and The Experience Community Church, Marilin consistently works to show others love; she is a clear example that volunteerism can give to the volunteer.
In high school, Marilin was a member and then officer of a service club. Working with organizations such as Salvation Army, Feed America First, and the Special Kids Therapy and Nursing Center encouraged her more serious involvement with volunteerism. She now works as a research assistant and substitute teacher at MTSU. Despite her aptitude for more technical studies, the social aspect of volunteering does not discourage Marilin. Rather, the diversity of volunteering inspires Marilin to learn more about her community and herself.
At Possibility Place Marilin helps developmentally disabled adults grow into independence. She also volunteers at The Experience Community Church, leading part of their middle school ministry. Marilin strives to bring love into her community, albeit in the classroom, church, or learning center. Service opens doors to see people and places one might not normally experience, and Marilin is constantly working to bring love into those unreached places.
Written by: Ryan Wilson
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
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
November’s Nashville Volunteer of the Month is Jacky Gomez, a community leader who deals with Hispanic and immigrant issues. She works as a receptionist at the Hispanic Foundation, a Program Coordinator with YMCA Latino Achievers, and a volunteer with the Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition.
An overarching theme in Jacky’s engagements is her will to support others to become their best selves. Her work at the YMCA, especially, is focused on the volunteer experience and how individuals can serve with their own sense of purpose.
In each of these endeavors, Jacky understands the opportunity she has to better her community. Jacky emigrated from Mexico at age two, and through her life, has engaged with the world through a bicultural lens. Despite growing up in a single parent household and dealing with financial struggles, Jacky was able to earn a scholarship to attend Lipscomb University, one of the first universities to offer scholarships to undocumented individuals.
As an immigrant herself, she has a unique perspective and grounding to drive her community work. She notes the importance of being “conscious and aware of the need of the community” and that she has been fortunate to work in places that do just that.
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.
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.
“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.
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.