As we head into a holiday surrounding gratitude and thanksgiving, we’re reflecting on some of the organizations in Nashville that we’re truly thankful for this year. There are countless nonprofits and businesses that serve Music City all year long, and here are three whose stories have recently touched us. Each recognized a need in Nashville, established a plan to meet it and has evolved as our city — and its subsequent changing needs — has changed. It is people and organizations like these that make Nashville Nashville. They are dedicated to making our wonderful city an even more wonderful place to live for all. The least that we can do is recognize their efforts, celebrate them and join in to help. Meet these three fantastic organizations — and find out how you can plug-in with each.
3 Nashville Organizations We’re Thankful For
Edgehill Bike Club
The Nashville floods of 2010 radically changed Terry Key’s life. The home of his wife, kids and himself was swept away, and the family was left with nothing. After a year of homelessness, Terry finally convinced the manager at the Edgehill Apartments to let them move in. “If you let me in, you’ll be glad,” Terry told him.
“In my mind, I was going to make a difference,” Terry explains, and he was right.
Today, Terry is the founder of the Edgehill Bike Club. “When we moved into the Edgehill projects, the kids wanted to go out and play, and I wanted to watch them but not be afraid. I wanted to create something so I could keep them close.” Then, he says, he began to notice bigger problems in the neighborhood — issues that took him back to his own childhood. He’d spot kids running around in the cold with shorts on or kids influenced by the old “superstars” in the neighborhood who didn’t have their best interests at heart. “It took me back to when I was little,” he says. “I was like, ‘Oh man … is it still like that?'”
This observation led Terry to make a plan. He connected with a church down the street that gave him free reign over their space. It was there that Terry began to help kids fix their bikes. He says, “I used to take kids from Edgehill and fix their bikes at the church. They would come down with broken bikes, and I’d talk to them and teach them a little bit, just to get to know them. Then, when I would get back up the street, I saw them laughing and playing and getting along with each other.”
He could see the impact of his time spent with the kids, and before he knew it, they were knocking on his door, seeking him out with broken bikes and eager smiles.
Terry sought out more bikes to fix and give to the neighborhood kids, and Hands On Nashville offered up 40 small bikes to him. “I gave all of those bikes away, and when I did that, I got to meet all of the little kids. That changed my life. I watched these kids playing together and was like, ‘Wow! These kids are changing!'”
From that moment forward, Terry has invested in the kids of Edgehill through Edgehill Bike Club. He teaches the kids valuable skills as he teaches them to care for and fix their bikes, and perhaps more importantly, he provides a positive, invested influence. Today, they have group rides, events in the neighborhood, one-on-one lessons and more.
“I dream BIG. I love what I do. What I want to do is see everyone on bikes having fun and getting along and turning neighborhoods around. That’s radical change,” Terry shares. “In my heart, I was like God must have put me out here for a reason, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been letting God lead the way. I’m learning. I’m trying to better myself, and God’s calling me to do this. This is my passion.”
How to Help: The Edgehill Bike Club is in need of bikes and funds. Consider donating old bikes to Edgehill Bike Club this season or visiting their donations page HERE.
The Next Door
Fifteen years ago, The Next Door was formed as a place to receive women after their release from jail. At the time, there was nowhere else in town where women could turn after incarceration, so for 10 years, The Next Door invited women in, easing their transition. “We named it this because we wanted to be the next door, a good door, that a woman could walk through after leaving a bad one — prison, prostitution, or other struggles,” says Kate McKinnie of The Next Door.
Now, The Next Door has shifted based on the needs of our city, and it offers substance abuse and mental health services to the women of Nashville regardless of their ability to pay. Tennessee has been hit particularly hard by our country’s opioid epidemic. In 2018, surrounding states saw a decrease in their overdose death rates while Tennessee saw an increase. Now, 85% of The Next Door’s patients seek treatment for opioid abuse.
The Next Door offers myriad treatment options — from 30-day inpatient care to an intensive outpatient program. Additionally, they have Freedom Recovery Community, a 21-unit affordable housing community designed for women and their children to have a safe, affordable place to live where they can have access to The Next Door’s programming.
One of the most unique and beautiful things about The Next Door is its staff. Kate tells us that many of the staff members are also alumnae of the program, and the patients are often experiencing some of the hardest moments of their lives. “Sometimes they’ll say, ‘You just don’t understand,’ which is often true.” But, there is an undeniable ease when they’re met with the experience of a staff member who can say, ‘I’ve been in your shoes before.’ It’s powerful,” Kate says.
The Next Door steps in on one of the toughest days of a woman’s entire life — when she has made the courageous step to voluntarily walk through the “next door” to a healthy, sober life. Addiction is a disease that ruins a person’s quality of life and often her will to live, so most of these women have hit rock bottom and are in crisis due to their substance abuse disorder. Last year alone, The Next Door served 1,413 women in some capacity, and their hope is to continue to grow that number as each year passes.
How to Help: “Nearly 90% of our women are mothers. It’s really challenging to be away from their kids during the holidays. We try to make the whole week of Christmas a big celebration. We’re looking to gift 100 travel mugs filled with a $15 gift card to a Walmart, Target, Kroger or fast food restaurants for the holidays. Additionally, it’s a women’s facility, so we need tampons, hairbrushes, socks, basic toiletries, bras and sports bras.” To get involved, email [email protected] or call (615) 251-8805.
The Nashville Blanket Project
Marissa Barrett and her husband Chris Barrett were eager to serve their city in a tangible way. The couple, Franklin natives, had noticed a need in the unhoused community of Nashville and decided to make a plan. After all, Melissa explains, “They are our neighbors, too.”
She had been keeping up with People Loving Nashville for some time, admiring the way they served our city. She noted that it was always blankets they were looking for on Instagram callouts and otherwise, and the wheels began to turn. In June of last year, Marissa and her husband launched The Nashville Blanket Project at The Peach Festival in Sevier Park. She bought a box of blankets with the intention that with each blanket sold, one would be given to someone who needed it to stay warm. They had two options. “We were either going to sell them, or if they didn’t sell, we’d just give them away, and that would be that,” Marissa says. A year and a half later, the couple is still selling blankets.
They’ve been met with ample support from the community, and in their first six months, the couple was able to give 300 blankets to those who needed them.
The Barretts source their blankets directly from Mexico. “They’re a traditional Mexican blanket called falsa,” Marissa says, “and we are happy to support our neighbors there too.” The blankets are ethically made, woven by artisans in Mexico in beautiful colors from a blend of reclaimed fibers. The use of reclaimed fibers is both better for the environment and more water- and odor-resistant than using 100% wool or cotton blankets.
Each time a blanket is sold, a tally goes down in their tracking. When the cold winter months roll in, they pass out blankets alongside People Loving Nashville, as they can best guide them to unhoused Nashvillians who need the blankets most. Warmth, a basic need that we often take for granted, is a gift that Marissa and Chris are able to deliver to Nashville through their initiative, and we are especially grateful for them this season!
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