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Giving Thanks for a Community of Volunteers

The Mount Juliet community has experienced quite a few natural disasters in the last couple of years. It started with the tornado in March 2020 followed by a major flood and yet another tornado in 2021. In each case, neighbors quickly banded together to help, but the need for an efficient hub to manage volunteers became abundantly clear. 

Regina Girten and Jamie Tyner met at City Hall the day after the EF-4 tornado in 2020. Both women were serving as outreach directors in local churches and were asked to help coordinate efforts for the 4000 volunteers who registered through the portal established by the Mount Juliet Police Department. As they worked together, both ladies recognized an opportunity to create long-term change for the community as a whole. That’s when the grassroots idea for Volunteer Network TN was formed to establish a centralized volunteer management space in Wilson County. The goal was simple. They wanted to connect local participants with ongoing needs in the area through an easy-access online platform.

The continued growth of Mount Juliet and Lebanon clearly warranted its own volunteer hub to effectively serve the unique needs of its citizens and other nonprofits. Hands on Nashville, based in Davidson County, graciously took Volunteer Network TN under their wing to provide expertise and guidance. Girten says HON has been immensely beneficial and she’s thankful for the opportunity to learn from an organization that has successfully been involved with this type of work for more than 30 years. This partnership allowed VTN to get off the ground quickly and establish fundraising efforts while they worked to set up their own 501c3. 

The registration platform they’ve created is quite robust. It allows community partners to post one-time opportunities as well as ongoing needs. For example, Compassionate Hands was previously maintaining multiple spreadsheets for each of their church partners hosting winter shelter nights. Utilizing the Volunteer Network TN portal to track and manage their volunteer base will drastically streamline their resources. On the public-facing side, volunteers can filter available opportunities by type, location, or age requirements, and creating a profile is quick and easy. If you are looking for a group activity, Girten can also help curate an event to fit the needs of your volunteers. 

This technology is offered free to both community partners and volunteers but it can be quite costly. Thankfully, a grant from the Family Foundation covers part of the technology fees but there are several upcoming opportunities to support Volunteer Network TN through fundraising. Tickets are currently on sale for the November 8th performance at the Listening Room featuring Wilson County residents, Jordan Phillips and JD Shelburne.

Volunteer Network TN also wants to help volunteers to be as prepared as possible if tragedy strikes again. Natural disaster relief and debris removal training is currently being coordinated to help the community act quickly and effectively if needed. This will also include capacity training for nonprofits.

The Volunteer Network TN online platform officially launched in May 2023. In just a few short months they have listings from 30+ nonprofits seeking volunteer support and over 400 citizens registered to help. More than 800 hours of service have been donated thus far. As we head into the holiday season and winter months, the need is expected to grow dramatically. Thankfully, Girten knows that the Mount Juliet community will rise to the challenge. To learn more about available opportunities and how to contribute, visit volunteernetworktn.org.

TIMELINE

March 2020 – A devastating tornado ravishes Mount Juliet homes, businesses, and schools. 

March 2021 – Flash flooding causes catastrophic damage to multiple businesses and organizations. 

December 2021 – An EF-1 tornado damages over 150 structures in Wilson County.

May 2023 – Volunteer Network TN launches their online platform. 

Rev. Regina Girten is the Executive Director of Volunteer Network TN and a pastor at Providence Church. She played an integral role in coordinating volunteer efforts as the Co-Chair of Recover Wilson. Regina is passionate about building bridges between residents and local organizations to serve the needs of Wilson County. Originally from New Orleans, LA she now lives in Lebanon with her husband and two daughters.

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