How to help: Nashville’s volunteer spirit survives

Monday, May 3, 2010 at 12:00pm

Nashville’s volunteer spirit is alive and well in the aftermath of the historic flooding that displaced residents across Middle Tennessee this past weekend.

Hands on Nashville, the city’s primary resource for managing volunteers, reports that as of 8:30 a.m. Monday approximately 2,000 individuals had registered on the organization’s website to become volunteers.

“What always amazes me working with volunteers is how quickly the response comes,” said Lisa Davis Purcell, director of external affairs for HON, adding that since Mayor Karl Dean’s media briefing on Sunday in which he referenced the HON website (www.hon.org), “people have literally come out of the woodwork.”

One of the largest volunteer resource centers in the nation, HON’s current focus is on staffing emergency shelters across the region. Last year the group placed 38,000 volunteers in emergency response situations.

Mitch Turner, spokesperson for the Nashville Area Red Cross, says that agency as well is currently focused on ensuring that shelters are open and that food is available for those in need.

According to Turner, the Red Cross served 3,000 meals and 10,000 snacks Sunday night. The current population residing in area shelters stands at 1,200 and is expected to rise, Turner said. Shelters at Lipscomb University and the Gordon Jewish Community Center are the most populated. Turner emphasized that no one in need would be turned away. Also, the agency’s mobile meal program will be operational and delivering hot meals to stranded flood victims this afternoon.

The American Red Cross is currently operating 18 emergency shelters throughout the region. Shelters are open locally in the following locations:

• Al Menah Shrine Center – Nashville
• Grace United Methodist Church – Mt. Juliet
• Gordon Jewish Community Center – Nashville
• Smyrna Town Center – Smyrna
• Lipscomb University – Nashville
• College Hills Church of Christ – Lebanon
• People's Church – Franklin

People are encouraged to donate financially either by visiting the Red Cross website at http://www.nashvilleredcross.org/index.asp?IDCapitulo=78T3Z2WSK0 and clicking on the “Donate” button, or by calling the phone bank at 615-250-4250. Mailed donations are also encouraged as the relief effort is expected to continue for several weeks.

The Red Cross is also working to educate people who are returning to their homes on how to repair a flooded home. A link is available at http://www.redcross.org/www-files/Documents/pdf/Preparedness/file_cont33...

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, which oversees more than 730 charitable funds and has distributed more than $470 million to community programs and institutions over the past 18 years, is also heavily involved in the local relief effort.

For many years and through many disasters, the foundation has had a partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management to simplify and expedite the process by which people affected by disaster can receive help.

The Community Foundation is accepting financial contributions from donors and will disperse them to nonprofit organizations helping people affected by disaster.

“Some lives are going to be back to normal today, others are going to need to be rebuilt,” said Foundation president Ellen Lehman. “We are in it for the long haul.”

The Community Foundation has also activated its Tennessee Emergency Response Fund in response to flooding beyond the Davidson County area. Grants from this fund will be made to nonprofits supporting relief and restoration in areas of Middle Tennessee affected by the floods. Donations can be made to the fund at www.cfmt.org. The organization can be reached at 615-321-4939, or toll free at 888-540-5200.

Lehman stresses that cash donations — not goods — are most needed.

“Time and time again we find that the most useful gift is money,” she said.