Meet Dameion Ison!

awardsIt’s the day prior to the last day of school and a 6th grader from a local middle school here in Nashville rushes into our Volunteer Services Director’s office with excitement!  He shows Misty his 3 medals, trophy and 4 certificates for academic achievement.  He is beaming and grinning from ear to ear as Misty shares with us, his accomplishments. I ask Dameion what his favorite subject is and he replies, “Math.’  He then adds he would love to be a Computer Programmer when he grows up.

Just a few months ago, Dameion and his family were homeless, mainly living in local hotels until they could secure an apartment here at our Center of Hope.  Dameion, his mother and his 2 sisters call The Salvation Army home and are grateful for the safety, stability, resources and love that they receive on a daily basis from the staff here at The Center of Hope.

We are super proud of you Dameion for staying focused, committed and dedicated to your education and for going above and beyond, resembling a “shooting star!”

Meet Irene Oquendo!

1849Many non profits utilize the talents of area students who call upon them in hopes of an internship in their related field.  This provides the students with the experience and hours needed to graduate, complete a class or just enhance their professional development.  2 years ago, in the fall of 2011, Irene Oquendo, who was currently working on her MBA from Belmont, was scanning the Hands On Nashville website and came across our need for interns in the Marketing Dept.  She made the call and after going through our volunteer process, she joined our team and worked through her first Salvation Army Christmas season.  She had originally committed to Oct-December but fell in love with what The Salvation Army was doing so she just kept coming back.  She stayed through May 2012, took a couple of months off and then returned September 2012 where she covered for our Director of Marketing who was out on leave.  Irene donated several hours a day, 5 days a week to make sure press releases went out, the website was updated, events were coordinated and the newsletter was written.  Irene is still working hard with us here in 2013 and was part of our 3 person team that created and helped launch our new website.

When asked what she loves/likes about The Salvation Army, Irene replied, “I love how it targets basic needs in the community and that it’s a Christian organization that puts God first.”  Irene also shared why she keeps coming back day after day, “I have been blessed in my life and it’s important to give back.”

We thank you Irene for your servants heart and your dedication to the mission.  We proudly name you our “Sally Star!”

Here is Irene sharing on how “Love Lives Here” at The Salvation Army!

Meet Gordon Chavez!

Back in the Fall of 2010, a young gentleman from Franklin, TN arrived on our doorstep and for almost 2 years never failed to be here on Thursday evenings to teach the GED class.  Gordon, a 16 year old from Ravenwood High School had a love and passion for teaching and was browsing the Internet for opportunities in which he could give back and help those who wanted to learn.  He came across volunteer opportunities at The Salvation Army in our Life Skills Learning Program via Hands On Nashville, and well, you could say, the rest is history.

In speaking with Gordon, his eyes lit up with excitement as he shared on various students who frequented his classroom.  He loved how so many of them were motivated about wanting to better their life, learn new things and provide for their families.  Gordon shared that, “these folks didn’t have to be there, they wanted to be there and that’s what kept me going.”  Gordon remembers a young man who was working at a restaurant, trying to make ends meet after he’d been released from jail.  He went up to Gordan after he had obtained his GED and said, “I’m ready to go be a part of society; to start my new life” and he thanked Gordon for helping him get there.

John Crawford, Ex Dir of Programs, Gordon Chavez and Lt Col. Charles White as they presented Gordon with a Thank You from The Salvation Army for his amazing dedication and commitment!

Gordon will be leaving us this summer but we wish him nothing but blessings as he begins his freshman year at NYU with a full scholarship in Math and Physics research.  His goal? To  eventually work in Theoretical Physics but his heart is to reach out and continue volunteering as a teacher.  In fact, he has already begun researching local Salvation Army’s in the NYC area so he can begin work with them while he’s in school.  Gordon told me that, “my responsibility is not only to myself but to the people around me.  It’s my responsibility to help make other people’s lives better using the gifts I’ve been given.”

Gordon, we will miss you but know that you planted many a seed in the hearts and minds of students who entered your classroom every Thursday evening.  You instilled hope, encouragement, support and knowledge, and from this impact, more lives will be changed as they carry on what they have learned, and seek to make a difference in the lives of Others!  What an amazing light you shine, you are indeed a Sally Star!

Meet the Kiwanis Club of Nashville!

As we close out National Volunteer Week, we reflect on all of our wonderful volunteers, which consist of families, individuals and church, civic and corporate groups who go above and beyond to meet the need no matter the cost, no matter how much time it takes.

One such incredible group is the Kiwanis Club of Nashville.  Thousands of members over a span of 20 years have dedicated their time , their heart and their treasure to make a difference in the lives of families within our community.  Annually, they host a Christmas Party for children in our programs, allowing them to just be kids and focus on the love that is displayed as Kiwanians join us in festivities that honor Christ and promote hope! For several years, the Kiwanis Club have made it possible for families in our programs to enjoy a”Day on the Farm” complete with hay rides, fishing, horseback riding, food fresh off the grill and a bonfire.  Within the past 3 years,  Kiwanis has collected and restored more than 200 used bikes and provided them to children and adults targeted by The Salvation Army.  Kiwanians, AJ Levy and Harvey White founded the shop and served as mechanics for the first two years.  And what has become a true holiday treat, Kiwanians gathering together around our Red Kettles and merrily ringing the bell for change!  Last year alone, we had 70 volunteers from Kiwanis who raised a total of $5,000 for the cause and are the recipients of the famed, “Kettle Cup Trophy!”

Thank you to Kiwanis of Nashville for creating the Up & Over Fund back in 1999.  This year, Kiwanis enabled The Salvation Army to provide a hand up to more than 200 impoverished families with a Priority One Youth Foundation grant of $15,000.  This ends up being an average disbursement of $75 per family and even though $75 may not sound like much………..until your only car breaks down and you have to come up with bus fare for a month


……until your child care fee doubles because you reported a dollar an hour pay raise and your part time job


…..until you lose your job because you had to stay home with your sick children

The Up & Over Fund bought the bus passes, covered the difference in child care fees, kept the lights and heat/air on in the house while the parent got their kids well and found a new job along with countless other blessings that enabled folks to get back on their feet, stay on their feet and always moving forward!

Kiwanis of Nashville, through your hours of volunteer service and the treasures that you lay at our feet in order to serve those who are in need of a miracle, we thank you and are honored to have you work with us in so many way;s impacting so many lives.  Your light remains strong as you support us, empowers us and enable us to be there for Others.  You are a brilliant Sally Star, that shines ever so brightly!

Meet Ron Harmon

After retiring from a 26 year successful career at Sunbeam Bakery, Ron learned about helping others through The Salvation Army and decided this was something he’d enjoy doing at Christmas time through their Angel Tree Program, under the direction of Majors James and Bertha Worthy.

After close to 10 years of volunteering, Ron became employed by The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center under the leadership of Majors Ken and Hellon Merrifield, with the stipulation that he would still be allowed to help in Angel Tree and Disaster work (which he loved!).

Within 2 years, Ron was asked to join The Salvation Army Area Command and become their Disaster Coordinator.  He worked there for 9 years performing such tasks as starting the feeding program for the homeless under the Jefferson Street Bridge (Soup Wagon) and raising the funds to provide the food to feed others.  Prior to finding this location, he served meals to the homeless at Riverfront park, the Nashville Library and beside The Salvation Army Thrift Store then located at 140 North First Street in Nashville with his wife, Melody and another amazing volunteer Toby.

When opportunities arose to conduct disaster preparedness training, Ron was there and eager to share with others how to best meet the need at the point of need. As more disasters began to take place in Tennessee and surrounding states, including Hurricane Katrina, Ron coordinated the volunteers, prayed with others and gathered the food needed to take with them to the affected areas.   When he left The Salvation Army in 2010, Ron continued to volunteer his time and energy serving others on Friday nights under the Jefferson Street Bridge by driving the mobile kitchen, praying with others and assisting his fellow volunteers anyway he could.  His Sunday School class at Inglewood Baptist Church followed his lead and join in on the Friday night feeding program every 2nd Friday each month.  He and wife, Melody (who worked at The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center for 13 years prior to the May 2010 flood) along with their class have been cooking, serving, cleaning up, providing blankets, clothes, bags, shoes and praying with the homeless for over 2 years.
Both Ron and Melody have a heart for serving others and will continue to do so as the Lord leads them into new adventures.

Thank you Ron for your heart to serve alongside this “Army!”  Your compassion and empathy for the homeless does not go unnoticed and we know your day is complete if you have the chance to provide a warm meal, clothes, something to drink and hope to someone who feels abandoned and alone.  You are indeed a shining light; a Sally Star!

Meet Ray Hayles

As we make our way through National Volunteer Week, The Salvation Army wanted to spotlight various individuals and groups who give of themselves selflessly to the cause.   During this week, we are featuring  a volunteer daily, sharing on how they serve and why.  In the past, we have paid homage to our amazing angels via our Sally Star initiative, honoring several volunteers like Eloise Ferguson,  EJ Boyson and Liz Turner as well as remembering faithful volunteers, promoted to glory such as Tim Bell and Patrick Milkintas.

It’s vital throughout the year to recognize those who could give of their time anywhere else but choose to donate it to us.  We can do that with banquets, cards, billboards and newsletters but most importantly with a face to face thank you, hand shake or hug that tells them they are appreciated and that they are truly a blessing in the life of someone else.  Let them know, they are the difference!

Volunteers like Ray Hayles who for a couple of years now has been a vital part of our Tuesday morning Breakfast Brigade.  This is an outreach we provide every week on Main Street in Nashville.  A freshly prepared breakfast consisting of potatoes, eggs and fruit are served with juices, water and coffee.  Ray is the prayer leader each Tuesday, so prior to breakfast being served, each man and woman will bow their heads while standing in a single file line for their morning meal, and Ray will lead them in prayer.  Ray is quick to bless each one of them in the name of Jesus, ask for protection over each person and that they all come to know Jesus in a personal way.

Ray also serves as our #1 egg cracker, carefully breaking each individual egg (22.5 dozen in all) for the scrambled eggs we serve.  Ray is quick with a smile, is humble and kindhearted and whatever happens to be the task at hand, he is quick to do it.

When asked why he volunteers, his reply is simply, “just so I can help in a very small way.”  To our volunteers, they may feel it’s small as it may only encompass an hour or two, maybe a day, but for the person they are helping by feeding, clothing, providing resources and praying with, they are contributing something that will a last a lifetime in their hearts and souls.

Ray, for each and every prayer you’ve spoken over the crowds on Tuesday mornings, we see your light as you speak about the Son and his desire for our lives!  You are indeed a Sally Star!

Meet Inglewood Baptist Church!

For over 2 years, every second Friday of the month, members from Inglewood Baptist Church make their way to our center and begin prepping food for the evening’s meal under the Jefferson Street bridge.

Below is an excerpt from their church cookbook that describes what it means to them to have the chance to give back every month to those in need.

“These people are human beings who desperately depend on volunteers to fulfill their basic needs of life-food, shelter, clothes, etc, but most of all they need someone who will take the time to care about them, to listen to them and to treat them as human beings.  After the first time of volunteering our eyes were opened to the magnitude of the needs to be filled and how our perception of homeless people was incorrect.  Most of the homeless look, act and talk just as we do, we realized that we were just a few missing paychecks or bad circumstances from being homeless ourselves, but most of all we realized that God loves homeless people too and if we are truly God’s children we will love as we are loved.  The homeless really appreciate everything everyone does for them.  The blessings we receive for serving is as great as the ones who receive and to know that for at least one night their stomachs are full……..this ministry is not ours because it belongs to God!”

The Salvation Army is truly humbled and blessed beyond measure by our volunteer groups like Inglewood Baptist Church!  Lives are being changed and impacted in ways we may never full see, but God is aware and is pleased.  Thank you Inglewood Baptist Church for shining brightly each month on Friday nights.  You are truly “Sally Stars!”