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How to Give Back: Charities in Nashville

Getting involved and giving back has never been easier — our collection of Nashville charities doing the selfless work in our city and making it even stronger.

Written By:  Nashville Lifestyles & Erin B. Murray

Photographers:  Provided

Second Harvest Food Bank

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee opened its doors in 1978 with commitment from several community leaders. The purpose of the organization was to provide a central distribution center for companies, groups and individuals who wished to help provide food for hungry people in Middle Tennessee. Second Harvest's mission is to feed hungry people and work to solve hunger issues in our community. Second Harvest was designed to collect food that would otherwise be wasted, inspect and sort this food, and distribute it to soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters serving the hungry.

Annual Event:
The Harvest Moon Ball is a socialite dream each November featuring a night of dining and dancing.
Help end hunger in Middle Tennessee, check out SecondHarvestMidTN.org

Tender Loving Cakes
There are any number of ways to support the Second Harvest Food Bank but one of the most delicious is through Tender Loving Cakes. The concept is simple: When you order one of their locally made coffee cakes, they donate a second coffee cake to the Middle Tennessee Second Harvest Food Bank. The cakes, in sour cream blueberry or cinnamon pecan, make deliciously sweet corporate and hostess gifts

Make-A-Wish Foundation of Middle Tennessee

Make a Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical condition to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy. Fulfilling a child’s wish provides a joyful and meaningful experience that benefits both the child and the family. The Middle Tennessee chapter volunteers are part of a nationwide network of nearly 25,000 caring people dedicated to making wishes come true.

See party pics from the most recent Waiting for Wishes event!

Annual Events:
Famous Dave’s Annual Birdies, Bogeys and Bones Golf Tournament (Fall) and Kevin Carter's Waiting for Wishes Celebrity Waiter's Dinner (Spring)
Don't miss an event, MiddleTennessee.Wish.org

The Salvation Army of Nashville

This faith-based nonprofit has been in existence in Nashville since 1890 and offers a resource for families in great need. Serving nearly 30,000 citizens of Nashville, the Salvation Army is an international mission that focuses on empowering individuals through faith, hope, and love.

Annual Events:
The local Bridge to Bridge walk takes place every December, featuring a four-mile course that connects three bridges. The Salvation Army also accepts vehicle donations on a regular basis and during the holidays, runs the organization's iconic "Red Kettles" campaign as well as the Angel Tree program, which identifies and helps fulfill the needs of local children.
Give back to those who give so much at salarmy-nashville.org


Through the purchase of Nisolo products, consumers support job creation as they contract impoverished producers who, through their work, empower themselves to shape their own future. Understanding the important role that education plays in growth, they have also pledged to donate 10% of profits to education programs in the neighborhoods where their products are made. That way, not only is empowerment offered through stable jobs, but opportunity is shaped into reality for the thousands of bright young minds willing to make lasting change in their communities. Become a walking philanthropist, more at Nisoloshoes.com

Get the back story on how local entrepreneurs came up with the idea for Nisolo — now in our Nashville Heroes feature.

Annual Event:
The Nisolo Southern Roots Tour is takes place in the fall, check their site for all the details, nisoloshoes.com/events

Blood:Water Mission

Founded by the multi-platinum, GRAMMY Award-winning band, Jars of Clay, Blood:Water Mission began as a call to personalize the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. Blood:Water Mission has raised millions of dollars through the creative efforts of tens of thousands of individuals seeking to make a difference, providing for the completion of the 1,000 Wells Project at the end of 2010. To date, they have partnered with more than 1,000 communities in Africa, providing life-saving water and health care for over 600,000 people in 13 different countries.

More at bloodwatermission.com
Meet co-founder Jena Nardella in our Nashville Heroes feature.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers’ Fund for the Future

Established in 2007
Local author Bill Friskics-Warren wrote: “No single group has given African-American spirituals greater exposure in this country or around the world than the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University.” The original Jubilee Singers began singing “slave songs” in 1871, breaking down racial barriers and preserving this unique American musical tradition known today as Negro spirituals. Today, the Fisk Jubilee Singers continue sharing this rich cultural tradition globally.

As musical director Paul Kwami noted on the occasion of their induction in the first class of those honored on Music City’s Walk of Fame, “Historically, through their world travels, the Singers helped put Nashville on the world map […] This becomes another great source of encouragement to them, knowing […] that there are people in the world who realize what their position means, not just to Fisk, but to Nashville.” This fund is designated to support this community treasure in perpetuity.
Source: cfmt.org

Amazima Ministries

Founded by 19 year-old Katie Davis in 200, Amazima is based out of Brentwood and feeds, educates, and encourages orphaned and vulnerable children and the poor in the country of Uganda. In the Lugandan language, Amazima (uh-mahz-i-muh) means "truth." Amazima desires to reveal the truth of God's unconditional love through Jesus Christ to the Ugandan people. Amazima ministers to the Ugandan people through Education Sponsorship, Masese Outreach, Community Outreach, Vocational Projects, and Discipleship.
More at Amazina.org

Nashville Heroes: Katie Davis — read more now!

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

A promise from one sister to another launched this global breast cancer movement that has invested almost $2 billion to end breast cancer. In 1992, the Greater Nashville Affiliate held their first Race for the Cure at Centennial Park. In the two decades since, they've grown to include a staff, a Board of Directors have provided more than $3 million in screening, treatment and educational services to the women of Middle Tennessee. 

Annual Event:
The annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure takes place every year in October.
Give your girl power to the group in Nashville, visit their site KomenNashville.org

The Bongo Employee Assistance Fund

Established in 2012
As the leader of a growing company, Bob Bernstein, founder and owner of Bongo Java, started to receive personal pleas for help from employees who were affected by life events beyond their control. He came to The Community Foundation to create a corporate care fund that allows him, as an employer, to pool funds so that if an employee were to encounter a specific life-altering situation (such as a natural disaster or illness), he or she can apply for short-term financial support. Bernstein as well as his employees can make contributions, and it is available to all eligible employees. CFMT has created similar funds for more than 50 companies to date.
Source: cfmt.org

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee

This group oversees more than 840 charitable funds, providing customized philanthropic solutions with flexibility for donors, nonprofit organizations and the community. In the past 21 years, The Community Foundation has distributed more than $600 million to community programs and institutions.

Giving Opportunity:
The Community Foundation now has Giving Cards for holiday shoppers looking for an alternative to traditional gifts. Giving Cards, like any retail gift card, are loaded with a dollar value by the purchaser, but this is a charitable gift card – Giving Card recipients redeem 100% of the value of these cards as donation to any charity of their choice, anywhere in the U.S.
Visit their site now to purchase a Giving Card.

Cheekwood Society

Cheekwood Society contributors join peers and community leaders in an effort to maintain the established tradition of philanthropy and involvement that has been at the heart of financial support for Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art. Cheekwood Society is an essential resource for the continued success and expansion of our collections, programs, exhibitions, and activities through unrestricted and restricted gifts.

Annual Event:
The Swan Ball is is a white-tie gala, attended by 850 prominent middle Tennesseans and their guests. The annual gala occurs on the second Saturday of June. The Ball benefits—and is held on the grounds of—Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art.
Consider joining the society, Cheekwood.org

Linda's Hope

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers and the team behind Linda's Hope is driven to find ways to end the disease as well as to raise awareness and support for those who have been affected by it. They provide education and outreach and also find creative ways to raise funds.

More from the 2012 Linda's Hope event on our Party Pics Page!

Annual Events
The annual Chili Cookoff takes place in November and welcomes chili "teams" to compete with their own pots of chili. The money raised goes toward an endowment for the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.
Read up about this great organization at lindashope.org

The Sports Fund

Established in 2011
“The problems confronting our youth are enormous,” says Ellen Lehman of the Community Foundation. “Gang activity, truancy, dropout rates, early onset diabetes, childhood obesity, teen pregnancy, drug use, you name it. And we’ve been looking for years for a critical intervention point where the application of a little bit of money might be able to turn that around. We realized that maybe we could leverage the fact that every kid yearns to belong to something bigger than themselves.”

The Sports Fund exists to help ensure that children across this community can become part of a team. The hope is that they can have their lives enhanced by a caring but disciplined coach who demands their best rather than their worst. Sports can promote and inspire active, healthy lifestyles and lifelong habits among people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. Sports and team membership provide a sense of belonging, self-esteem, hope, and the inspiration of coaches; a source of activity, particularly in the critical after-school hours; and a “hook” to attract kids to nonprofit programs while also offering tutoring. Through The Sports Fund, nonprofit organizations providing these opportunities will have a permanent endowed source of funding to ensure support.
Source: thesportsfund.org

Pet Community Center

Founded in 2011, the Pet Community Center is a volunteer-led group of advocates who have extensive experience in animal welfare. Their mission is to create a community where pets are valued and treated as members of the family and to eliminate the need for euthanasia. They are always looking for volunteers to join their cause and to help educate the community.

Annual Events:
Team Feline Fix, a running team that supports Pet Community Center runs in Nashville's half marathon every spring. The money raised by the racers helps facilitate spays and neuters through the Feline Fix program. Find out more about the Pet Community Center.

Songs for Sound

Songs for Sound's core mission is to improve the quality of life for profoundly deaf children worldwide by providing resources to give them the chance at a mainstream life. They work with the deaf community and provide resources for cochlear implants and rehabilitation, including speech/audiology services, to children in need.

Annual Event:
Each spring, their fundraising Denim and Diamonds event is held in Franklin with an amazing lineup of live music. Learn more at songsforsound.com

See Party Pics from the most recent Denim and Diamonds event.

Cumberland River Compact

Clean and abundant water are a finite resource that provides so much for us, including drinking water, agricultural irrigation, recreation, and manufacturing, to name a few. Chances are you can’t name one endeavor that doesn’t use water in the process. The Cumberland River group works to ensure clean and abundant water sources throughout the Cumberland River Basin (both in Tennessee and Kentucky).

Annual Event:
The Cumberland River Dragon Boat Festival is held in September is a lively experience for participants and spectators. Whether you're working hard with your team of rowers or enjoying the view from Riverfront Park downtown—you're improving our community. The long tradition of dragon boat racing with a cultural festival is unlike any other in Music City.
Find out more at CumberlandRiverCompact.org

Tennessee Voices For Children

Tennessee Voices for Children, Inc. (TVC) was organized in 1990 by Tipper Gore as a statewide coalition of individuals, agencies and organizations working together as a Steering Council to promote children’s health and education services. TVC has progressed to become a statewide and national source of referral, support, and advocacy for families and the systems that serve them. In the past fiscal year, TVC has reached more than 150,000 parents/caregivers, family members, and professionals (providers, educators, other advocates, etc.).
More at TNvoices.org

National Humane Association

The Nashville Humane Association (NHA) is one of the oldest service organizations in Nashville, looking out for animals in Davidson County since 1946. You can assist in their mission through adoption or just going in to spend quality time with a dog or cat. The Humane Association offers services including: Pet Adoptions, Animal Resource Center, Lost and Found Pets, Humane Education, Community Outreach and Spay/Neuter, Volunteering, and Foster Care.

Annual Event:
Unleashed: Dinner with your Dog is a fabulous and fun dinner with your dog and pet fashion show featuring local fashion designers, jewelry designers and interior decorators who have created custom “canine couture” pieces for the runway. The event takes place every January.
More at nashvillehumane.org

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee

For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country.

Annual Event:
Team Rio is the walk/run team representing Big Brothers Big Sisters during the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon, held every April. There is also a youth team that partners with local schools to teach and encourage a healthier lifestyle and assist kids with their training for the Kids Marathon.
See how you can get involved at MentoraKid.org

Nurse Assistant Training Program

NATS, Inc is a for-profit corporation authorized by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and offers employment opportunities for nurse assistants in health care. NATS, Inc. seeks to enhance and improve levels of technical performance through training that prepares students to be an effective member of a health care team.
Visit their site for info, natscnt.com.

Hear Mary Carol Friddell's story and why she's one of Nashville's amazing heroes!

Mobile Medical Disaster Relief

MMDR is a 501(c)(3) Christian humanitarian organization that exists to help meet the needs of the poor and under-served people in the United States and throughout the world. MMDR is a faith-based nonprofit organization, ministering to the oppressed, serving the medically vulnerable, supporting neglected children, providing pure water and enabling self-sufficiency through micro-entrepreneurship.

Meet the folks behind MMDR in our special section on Nashville heroes.

The Dogwood Project

Established in 2013
Grief takes many forms. For an adult, years of developing coping skills and support networks may come into play. For a child, the grieving process takes a different shape. The Dogwood Project is on a mission to help children who have lost a close relative as they begin to grieve. When nine-year-old Rachel Schlapman lost her father, Allen, in an accident in 2012, a few random acts of kindness helped her realize she was loved. Quite simply, these gestures let her know her feelings were noticed.

The day before Allen died, he stood in his brother Stephen’s yard and talked at length about how he loved dogwood trees. Following the accident, Stephen—Rachel’s uncle—turned to The Community Foundation to launch The Dogwood Project. Through it, Allen's family sends grieving children a living memorial in honor of their loved one: a small tree or perennial flower to plant with an adult, along with a teddy bear for comfort. These serve as a reminder of love and hope, much like Rachel received, to children experiencing loss.
Source: thedogwoodproject.org

Nashville CARES

This community based AIDS service organization provides education, advocacy, and supportive services to anyone infected by HIV and AIDS. They have educated 10,900 teenagers about HIV prevention, provided 161,300 meals to 1,480 people with HIV/AIDS (PWAs), helped 1,200 clients find and keep housing and supported many others with financial and therapeutic resources.

Annual Event:
Under The Big Top turns Marathon Music Works into an 1800's circus with over-the-top décor, acrobats, and fire breathers each November.
Don't miss any of the action, NashvilleCARES.org

Brown Dog Foundation

Founded in 2006 in memory of Chocolate Chip, a chocolate Labrador retriever that touched many hearts in his short, ten-year life, the Brown Dog Foundation is a 501c3 public charity that provides funding to families who find themselves with a sick pet that would likely respond to treatment, but due to an unforeseen circumstance, there is not enough money immediately available to make it happen.

Annual Event:
The annual We Salute the Animals Dinner takes place in October and features a four-course dinner with all proceeds benefitting Tennessee families in crisis whose pet requires life-saving veterinary care.

Autism Society of Middle Tennessee

ASMT is the voice of the autism community in Middle Tennessee. Offering an extensive collection of resources from monthly workshops and support groups to educational and legislative advocacy. And that's the short list. Their mission is to enrich the lives and experiences of individuals on the spectrum, their families, and their surrounding community through support, advocacy, and education.

Annual Event:
Be a part of the ASMT conference each fall (November), where guest speakers and health care experts come in to encourage and enlighten attendees. In addition, ASMT hosts many events for members, most of which require advance registration.
Check their website for more details: tnautism.org

Renewal House

Renewal House is Nashville’s comprehensive, family-centered treatment and recovery community for women and their children, offering both residential and outpatient services. In a community with addicted women and their children, Renewal House fosters healing, resiliency and continuing recovery to enhance family health.

Annual Event:
A Women's Thanksgiving is a celebratory dinner held in November to benefit the Renewal House and showcase the stories of the program's Graduates. The women share how time at the Renewal House changed their life and the lives of their children by giving them the tools and support needed to live a healthy, drug-free life.
Listen to these stories and more at RenewalHouse.org

American Heart Association

Cardiovascular diseases and stroke are the No. 1 cause of death in Tennessee. Learn about the lifesaving work of the American Heart Association in Tennessee. They’re building healthier lives where you live and work — in the community, health care, education and research.

Annual Event:
The Nashville Heart Gala is one of the city’s most engaging and passion-filled evenings and celebrates the work, mission, donors, volunteers, and most importantly the lives saved and improved because of everyone’s efforts. Additionally, the Go Red event in February is National Wear Red Day (Feb. 1), when everyone wears red to “speak up” about women’s fight against heart disease.
More at heart.org

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The mission of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS is the world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services.

Annual Events:
LLS hosts a number of events each year including the Light the Night Walk, where thousands of participants gather in October to walk 1.75 miles holding illuminated balloons. In its 11th year, the leisurely Light the Night walk features live music, food and children's activities. 

More on this local charity at lls.org

Childcare Nashville

Established in 2011
An initiative of CFMT, Childcare Nashville's formation was funded in collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Human Services. Childcare Nashville’s goal is to ensure the accessibility and sustainability for quality childcare programs for the children and families they serve, which includes all participants of the childcare community: parents, job-seekers, and providers. Seeing the rise of nonprofit daycare centers in the city, CFMT has also created a website for parents who are in need of daycare to find a slot for their child. Thanks to this fund, many nonprofit centers are now working together, and an alliance has been formed to help the centers collectively manage their food and supply costs.
Source: childcarenashville.com






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