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EXCLUSIVE!

Step Inside NASHVILLE’S HISTORY page 6

WEST NASHVILLE’S

WEALTHIEST Who They Are, What That Means page 15

August–September 2019 VOL. III, ISSUE 5


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Founder and Publisher MIRIAM DRENNAN

Creative Consultant EVELYN MARIE PARRISH

Copy Editor JENNIFER GOODE STEVENS

Senior Contributor DWONNA NAOMI GOLDSTONE

Contributors HANNAH HERNER

MARY KATHERINE ROOKER

MIRANDA TELFORD

BRIGID MURPHY STEWART

AMY LYLES WILSON

Art Direction and Design ELLEN PARKER BIBB

Photographers LAKEITHEA ANDERSON HANNAH HERNER BRIGID MURPHY STEWART DARRETH WALKER

Distribution DON GAYLORD

This issue is dedicated to the memory of Jane Johnson, publisher of the West Nashville News.

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CONTENTS VOL. III, ISSUE 5 | August–September 2019

MAIN FEATURE 6

Nashville Sites: Step Inside Nashville's History

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SPECIAL ISSUE: WEST NASHVILLE’S WEALTHIEST

16 Darreth Walker

24 Caleb Wilrycx: The Only Thing that Matters is People

30 Shower the People

36 West Nashville Dream Center: New Space, New Hope, New Dreams

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56 Nashville Community Education Makes Lifelong Learning Fun and (sometimes) Free

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50 Nashville Diaper Connection: One Less Barrier to Break the Cycle of Poverty

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44 Judith Redmond: The Senior Renaissance Center’s Fearless Leader


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Step Inside Nashville’s History How many times have you passed by one of those intriguing historical markers and wished you could stop and read it? Either traffic won’t allow it, or a busy schedule forces you to put it off for another day, another year, or sadly, forever. There is hope! The Metro Historical Commission Foundation, Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel and her Belmont University honors classes, along with a host of other dedicated, historical-minded and techie folks, have created the perfect tours for you!

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Photo by Jimmy Ellis/The Tennessean

Photo courtesy of Metro Historical Commission

View of Union Station looking east down Broadway toward the Cumberland River, 1900. You can also see the Customs House and First Baptist Church in the distance. Photo courtesy of Metro Archives

Photo courtesy of Metro Archives

Pethel’s Digital Humanities class poses in front of the Ryman Auditorium in April 2019. The Downtown Public Art and Murals tour was written and led by students in Belmont’s Honors Program. Photo courtesy of Sam Simpkins (Belmont University). August–September 2019 | 372WN.com

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NASHVILLE SITES TOURS ARE SELF-GUIDED, HISTORICAL DIGITAL TOURS OF THE CITY. IF ALL GOES AS PLANNED, THEY WILL BE AVAILABLE THIS NOVEMBER, OFFERING THE LUXURY OF LEARNING ABOUT THE “ATHENS OF THE SOUTH” WHILE NAVIGATING SITES ON FOOT OR IN THE COMFORT OF YOUR CAR OR YOUR HOME. THE TOURS ARE FINE-TUNED TO YOUR INTEREST, WHETHER THAT IS MUSIC, HISTORY, RELIGION, WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE, FAMILY FUN OR BARS AND BREWERIES.

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ncorporating many of the existing historical markers and sites around Nashville, these tours will be available on your mobile phone or your computer. “It brings the historical marker into the digital age,” said Pethel, who is the mastermind of the project. The plan is to affix Nashville Sites medallions to the markers or to building entryways that link your phone to their website. On your computer, you’ll go to the website and pick the tour you want. That will get you a map of sites, and you can take the tour at your leisure—either reading the

information at each site or playing the narrated version as you go. Each site will have a story that gives in-depth details about the history, architecture, construction and other interesting facts of that historical stop. The whole idea took root in the spring of 2017 while Pethel was getting her post-graduate certificate in Digital Public Humanities at George Mason University. “My first project was a digital project about history based on places—a walking tour using existing historical markers,” she said. That started her thinking about how to

do similar tours for Nashville. “I’m a historian by training, but I became interested in tech in education, and in how we use it not only to inform but also to create meaning and to interpret,” Pethel explained. The graduate program offered her the digital classes she was interested in and gave her the tools to think of ways to teach history using digital and technological methods. Part of the program included internships at the Smithsonian Institution and at Vanderbilt University. While at Vanderbilt, she reached out to Tim Walker and Jessica Reeves of the

Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel introduces the Music Row tour in front of the Owen Bradley statue. The tour was written and led by her Digital Humanities class in December 2018. Photo courtesy of Sam Simpkins (Belmont University).

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Metro Historical Commission for help with her project idea. Pethel is a Belmont University Professor of Practice, Interdisciplinary Studies and Global Education. Her honors classes helped to further the project by writing the Music Row and Music in Music City tours and the Public Arts and Murals tour. These were class projects that will now be part of the Nashville Sites project. Pethel knew what she wanted to create, but she didn’t have the technical expertise to create the site. “We had to build a beta site, so we reached out to Nick Lorenson,” Walker said. Lorenson helps run Code for Nashville, a group of volunteers who collaborate with Metro government to promote open data and build civic apps. “But Code for Nashville was looking for small projects.” Walker said. “They were very interested, but it was too much for them to do pro

Photo courtesy of Metro Historical Commission

bono. It was just too complicated.” “We pivoted to discussing a potential paid engagement with fog. haus,” Lorenson recounted. fog. haus is a technical and creative consultancy Lorenson co-owns with Alexander Elliott. “We focus on brand ID work and web development, and we have a penchant for

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doing socially impactful work like Nashville Sites.” Walker, who is the executive director of MHC, said Pethel (who also serves on the Board of the MHC Foundation) then brought her digital history tour proposal before the MHC Foundation Board. The board was impressed with the idea

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and willing to support it, but the complete project was too big for any one entity. So Pethel, Walker and Reeves asked for help from the Steve and Judy Turner Foundation, which provided them seed money and lent credibility to the project with other nonprofits. “Within three to four months, we

raised the rest of our initial budget,” Pethel said. They contacted the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and brought in other education institutions, to include Fisk, Vanderbilt’s Center for Digital Humanities and Tennessee State University. What had started with a small core

group was growing quickly. More institutions came on board, offering meeting spaces, providing interns and lending support of all kinds. “Dr. Carroll Van West at MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University) was really instrumental in helping us get significant grants and providing us really good students,”

Photo courtesy of Metro Archives

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Walker said. Van West serves as the Tennessee State Historian and Director of the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU. Other prominent historians have also lent their expertise and love of Nashville’s history to the project, according to Pethel. Dr. Carole Bucy, Davidson County’s historian

and a professor of Tennessee History at Volunteer State Community College, wrote and narrated three of the tours. Pethel and Walker shared their pride in the historical accuracy of the tours. “On many tours,

Photo by Jimmy Ellis/The Tennessean

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you’re not sure how much of it is really valid,” Walker said. All true history buffs are assured that these tours have been designed and authored by area historians who care about telling the true Nashville story. “We wanted it to be interesting but credible,” Pethel said. “It has taken a great deal of work to plan and get the data for each site—the writing, building the site, controlling the vocals, getting the images and narratives, meeting the business owners and editing it all to make it one voice. But it has all gone very well,” Pethel said. “So many groups have come together to make this happen,” Walker said. “Our partners and others

like The District Inc. (a downtown nonprofit representing property owners on Second Avenue, Broadway and Printers Alley) have all been so instrumental in supporting this project.” The impressive list of technical support and educational institutions, nonprofit agencies, financial and historical groups, and area businesses continued to grow. Pethel and Walker have been amazed at the outpouring of interest and support. “This has become such a community of stockholders. It is reassuring that so many people care that the Nashville story is told well, and that all parts are told,” Pethel said. “It really has felt like a group

effort, with everybody coming together regardless of their particular interests in it,” Walker agreed. The Nashville Sites medallions will be ready soon, according to Walker. MHC Foundation and the Tennessee Historical Commission are working together to arrange placement at the sites. “The medallions are made of thick aluminum and are about 8x4 inches and vertical. They’ll be affixed to the top or base of the historical markers,” Walker said. “If there’s not a marker at a site, or it’s not visible, the medallions will be placed at buildings somewhere where they can be seen. The downtown library, for instance, will have multiple medallions at all the entrances.”

Photo courtesy of Metro Historical Commission

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The technology will be easy to use, providing a map of sites that helps navigate you to their locations. Some sites will offer Augmented Reality, where you can hold up your phone in front of a modern building that stands on a historical site and see a picture of what used to be there. Pethel hopes to have 20 tours in all. Some involve music, one is about architecture and one is called Food for Thought, combining restaurants and histoBelmont Honors Program students take their Music Row tour. ry. There is a Bars and will no longer be just signposts. Their tours will make Breweries tour, as well as an Old Time Religion tour. the city’s rich and abundant history more accessible to There are history tours like the Women’s Suffrage tour people riding and walking about town. and the Civil Rights tour, which includes the sit-ins at lunch counters. A Family Fun tour, authored by Sarah Brigid Murphy Stewart is a fifth-generation Nashvillian, writer and editor who always considers West Nashville her stomping Wilson who writes for The Family Backpack blog, offers grounds, regardless of where life takes her. fun for all ages. Nashville Sites tours will have something for everyone. The tours are self-guided so you can go at your own pace. You can even veer off in the middle of one tour and go to another if something grabs your attention. Another plus, according to Pethel, is that all tours are ad-free and a free public service. But Walker was quick to point out the option at the end of the tour to donate and lend your own support to the site. Pethel and Walker hope for a soft launch in September. If all goes as planned, a hard launch will take place this November when it will be offered to the public. Nashville Sites will ensure that historical markers VI

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West Nashville’s

WEALTHIEST PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OUT FEAR. –1 JOHN 4:18

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hether someone's need is emotional, financial, immediate or on-going, there is no quicker way to tear down a barrier or fear than by meeting it. Each one of us has needs, and each one of us has something to give. Contrary to what some would like you to believe, West Nashville still has a great deal of need—and a good number of people who have the resources to address those needs. Any of us could find ourselves in either camp at any given time, or perhaps at the same time. That’s why this particular issue has been in the works for several months; we sought those neighbors whose actions exemplify what community means. And West Nashville, you flooded us with your nominations! It’s beautiful to know our community has so many caretakers, but we whittled the list down to just a few and dubbed them West Nashville’s Wealthiest. Nominated by you, these are neighbors who understand that true wealth—the kind that cannot be taken away or destroyed—resides in the heart. We learned about West Nashvillians who paid off school lunch debt at our elementary schools; we heard about those who keep up our parks, streets and neighborhoods; those who fight the good fight with our elected and appointed officials; and there are others who kindly handle every day details for their neighbors, like pet-sitting, small repairs and sharing a meal. Some of the nominees wished to remain anonymous, and we obviously respected their wishes. We are grateful, however, to the local heroes who were willing to be featured. Meeting a need doesn’t require setting up a non-profit or throwing a fundraiser. Small acts of kindness may not seem like a big deal when you’re doing them, but they could make all the difference to the recipient. And a community. It is my hope that the following pages inspire you, me, all of us to ‘do good better’; it’s an investment the heart will never relinquish. Be kind to one another, West Nashville. Amid the industrial businesses, older cottages, tall-skinnies, and trendy eateries, let kindness be our community’s hallmark. — Miriam Drennan, Founder and Publisher

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by Amy

Lyles WILSON

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There’s a place on the West Side where your children can learn a skill or make a craft, shoot hoops or get help with their homework. It’s where adults can play indoor soccer or maybe try their hand at pottery. It’s called the West Park Community Center, and the heart of this gem is Program Coordinator Darreth Walker.

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West Park is one of nineteen Neighborhood Community Centers in the Nashville metro area that are designed to encourage interaction among residents of all ages. It provides an impressive array of educational and recreational activities throughout the year. The main focus of the center—with its after-school programs and summer camps—is children ages 6 through 14, but there are opportunities for older children and adults as well. On the morning I meet with Darreth, she’s ushering a line of active kids onto a bus for a field trip. One young girl seems unsure about the whole thing, and Darreth soothes her with such tenderness that the child agrees to join the others after all. “It’s a labor of love,” says Darreth, smiling. She smiles a lot, this

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woman who is the only full-time employee of the center. As such, she is responsible not only for programming, but also for building and grounds upkeep, staff and volunteer management, recordkeeping, and skinned knees. And snacks. “I’m in charge of everything that happens here, good and bad,” she says. “When the plumbing explodes and there’s sewage running through, you know . . . ” Indeed, she spent the first day of summer camp cleaning the bathrooms. After she earned her master’s degree in counseling and art therapy, Darreth thought she might end up in private practice. “But that is not the way the world worked out at all.” She’s been with Metro Parks for six years, at West Park for about

three. Before that, she worked with children with behavioral needs and served a stint as a Child Protective Services investigator. She also worked with the Girl Scouts, where she did outdoor adventure programming. “So I have that outdoor kind of adventure background, which is what got me into recreation,” she says. “Coming from a world of mental health, I was drawn to the fun that you can have here but you’re still doing really good work.” When asked what motivates her, her answer is strong and clear. “What drives me is very much social-emotional learning and experiential learning,” she says, “as well as helping kids tap into their own creativity. I like to do a lot of handson activities. It doesn’t necessarily have to be art,” but any pursuit


“What drives me is very much social-emotional learning and experiential learning . . . helping kids tap into their own creativity.”

“where the kids have to use their thinking to figure out how to make something work.” She mentions the marble-tube challenge, in which the children were divided into the boys and girls and tasked with constructing a tunnel out of paper towel rolls. It was, she says, great to watch the kids experiment with the logistics of attaching the tubes together in such a way as to propel the marbles through the entire length. “And we just finished up with tie-dye week,” she adds. She holds up a couple of brightly colored tees. “Each child got a shirt.” While we’re talking, she gets a text from one of the mothers

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on the bus with the kids. Darreth translates for me. “She’s telling me it’s a beautiful trip.” Although Darreth has spent time in Costa Rica, her Spanish is not as strong as she wants it to be. She is working to increase her fluency. Often, she says, the children translate what their parents want Darreth to know, and then interpret what she, in turn, needs the adults to understand. “There’s a family where there’s ten people living in a house,” she says by way of example. “They found out that we were here, and with the mother’s broken English and my broken Span-

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ish we communicated, we got the kids signed up. She was just blown away and so thankful because her kids can come here and have something to do and make friends.” You get the feeling they’re all helping each other learn a new language, one that transcends nationality. “There’s something about the purity of communicating with a child on their level,” says Darreth. “And I want to be the person who gives them truth and doesn’t scare them. I try to explain things so that they understand what they need to do and what’s happening—” Our talk is interrupted when two

young girls walk through the front door. (Later we will pause again when Darreth meets with the air conditioning repairman.) “Well hey, guys. What are you up to?” The girls are quiet and stand close to each other. “Did you know that everybody’s at the wave pool today?” The girls shake their heads. “Did your mother drop you off?” “Yes,” one of them answers. “Well, we can find something for y’all to do.” And so Darreth, smiling, leads them off to the art room, making


sure to leave the door cracked open so she can hear if she’s needed. “I almost feel like I’m their aunt,” she says, referring to all the children who make their way to the center. “This is a place where they know they’re okay. “We do have expectations of the kids,” she adds. “And there are consequences. Consistency is key.” There is something about Darreth that makes you want to bring every young person you know into her orbit. “I want everything to be as good as it can be,” she continues. “I want things to flow without a hitch, and

so I sometimes will overwork myself to make that happen. That has been a lesson for me, that I have to let go. And I have been quietly asking for help to come. Whenever I get people who show up and want to do stuff, that’s a great help.” Volunteering at the center is one way neighbors can contribute to this valuable resource. Teaching a class, coordinating an art project, tutoring a student or spotting Darreth so she can eat her lunch in peace. Another avenue is donating needed supplies, perhaps, or making a financial contribution. “It would be wonderful for more

people to want to teach kids a skill,” Darreth says. “People who have something to offer.” Darreth is always on the lookout for new things to try at the center. She added adult pickle ball and badminton because there were several requests. Along the way, she tried game nights and acoustic jams, but those didn’t draw enough folks. “Those might do better now,” she says, indicating both her optimism and her resolve. Recently, she’s had interest in a cooking class. “We have a kitchen here, and it

“I want to be the person who gives them truth and doesn’t scare them.”

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would be really neat to have a cooking club where people share their different cuisines,” she says. “I think that’s a beautiful idea.” You can just imagine it, neighbors from every corner of West Nashville gathering at the table to sample new foods and swap stories, all the while strengthening their ties to the community and to one another. Darreth readily says she couldn’t pull off any of this, whether it be the planning or the doing, without her staff and volunteers. (Depending on the hiring situation at Metro Government, she sometimes has

part-time assistants.) But she can always use more helping hands and hearts. When she’s not tending a child or answering the phone, Darreth dreams about the future. She wants to have a “blessings box” out front, reflecting the “take what you need, leave what you can” philosophy that guides such outreach projects as the Little Free Libraries and Pantries. For just as with any neighborhood, there are people who can afford to give and people who are in dire need of assistance.

And she envisions a community garden and a walking club to encourage people to eat healthy and stay active. For now, though, she works with what she’s got. When someone came by and offered West Park a collection of athletic trophies, Darreth was delighted. “We spray-painted them and had field day.” She tells me that soon the Nashville Food Project will come to lead a class on snacks, noting that she hopes to collaborate with more area organizations to enlarge everyone’s neighborhood experience.

“This is a place where they know they’re okay”

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who believes it’s the sharing of our stories that saves us. www.amylyleswilson.com.

NUTS AND BOLTS West Park Community Center 6105 Morrow Road 37209 615.862.8469 Open 10:00 a.m.–6:30 p.m., Monday–Friday Program Coordinator: Darreth Walker www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation For more information, follow West Park Community on Instagram (@westparkcenter), Facebook (West Park Community Center) and Nextdoor. For a calendar of events, visit www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation and search for West Park.

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CALEB Wilrycx The Only Thing that Matters Is People by Mary

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Katherine ROOKER


Many people would probably be too timid, maybe even too scared, to do what Caleb Wilrycx does. But Wilrycx doesn’t think he’s extraordinary. “I am as normal and middle of the road as anybody. I’ve got no special talents . . . but for whatever reason, I just feel best when I’m helping others,” Wilrycx says. A lot of people disagree. “His [Caleb’s] willingness to help, whether it’s an animal or people, it’s rare,” says friend Hilary Gelders. An architect by profession, Wilrycx is known throughout his West Nashville community as something else: a selfless giver. No matter the need, whether it’s a family struggling to make ends meet or a homeless person on the side of the road, Wilrycx never hesitates to help.

doing something because it was in my heart to do. It was for her sake.” Since then, Wilrycx has helped countless others. He volunteers with Matthew 25, a nonprofit that helps homeless men and veterans struggling with addiction. He’s also

volunteered at Grandpa’s House, a halfway house for young men in alcohol and drug treatment. He says it’s a gift to help others. “I keep it by giving it away. That’s a saying in recovery. We give away what we freely received.”

PULLING FOR THE UNDERDOG Growing up near Miami, Wilrycx says he always felt a connection to those facing challenges. “As a child, I just always rooted for the underdog. I was always drawn to the misunderstood,” he remembers. Wilrycx first focused his attention on homeless animals. He ran a rescue in Florida, getting pets adopted into loving homes. Wilrycx came to Nashville for treatment for addiction. After the program ended, he stayed. It was here that he turned his attention to people. The first person he helped, an elderly woman, wasn’t homeless. She was just alone. “Her name is Lucy. She rescues animals, so [we were] kindred spirits. But Lucy was lonely,” Wilrycx recalls. “I had just moved here. I was in early recovery, so ‘take it easy?’ It’s a thing. In early recovery, it’s a thing. So, my life was about self-care . . . just trying to slow down. So, her speed was perfect for me . . . I was, like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna go and hang out at Lucy’s house.’ That was different. That was probably my first service act, where I was just At Gigi's 5k and Row for a Reason. August–September 2019 | 372WN.com

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“He’s got this contagious energy,” says Gelders, who met Wilrycx when he started working out at the gym she owns, On the End CrossFit. “He’s just got this really bright energy . . . you can feel that passion that kinda shines through in his words. Well, not only his words but his actions. You can just feel that, and I think that, too, is what really rubs off on people wanting to get involved.” Wilrycx’s dedication to service comes from his faith and dedication to God. “I don’t plan these things. What I do, I just say, ‘Hey, give me an opportunity.’ That’s all I do . . . and He always delivers.”

At Gigi's Playhouse Crossfit.

“I was always drawn to the misunderstood . . . I always try to get eye to eye with them. It’s just respect.”

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At Mathew 25 Thanksgiving.

A DELICATE BALANCE Helping people is one thing. Doing it in a way that keeps a person’s dignity intact requires a certain finesse. “I always try to get eye to eye with them. If they’re sitting, I sit, too. It’s just respect,” Wilrycx says. He’s also perceptive to those who may be hesitant or self-conscious about receiving assistance. He recalls a moment just before Thanksgiving last year. “I knew this one particular family was going to be sensitive. They were new to my complex, and I made observations that led me to believe, ‘Hey. You know what? I could probably pour a little bit of love into this family.’” After developing a relationship with the family, Wilrycx was comfortable enough to take the next step. He reached out to his community of CrossFit friends, NextDoor contacts, and his church family. He told them he wanted to provide a Thanksgiving dinner for his neighbors. But that wasn’t the only need. Wilrycx had also encountered another, larger family. He says he could tell the father was struggling. “I just sensed a lot of pain,” he recalls. So, he went back to his friends and told them he had another family to feed. “The community has always shown up for me. I had enough to feed three families.” The first family knew of the effort and was grateful. They even invited Wilrycx to share Thanksgiving with them.

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condition it, just like He doesn’t condition His love. If you need a dollar and I have a dollar, you have a dollar. What you do with that dollar is not what the transaction was about. I ask you what you need.” It’s that unconditional giving that inspires those around Wilrycx. “He’s one of my absolute closest friends here in Nashville. He’s one of those people that I literally would just do anything for him, anything he asked. He’s just always looking to better the world any way that he can,” Gelders says. But while others look up to him, for Wilrycx, acts of kindness boil down to one thing in the end. “The only thing that matters is people. It’s literally the only thing that matters. When I think back on my life and I think back on the things that have given me the greatest joy, it has always been people.” ST

FEAR IS NOT AN OPTION Wilrycx helps people in ways most others wouldn’t. If he sees a person sitting in a median, he’ll stop his car and cross traffic to see what he can do. He frequently pops in at fast

food restaurants and buys food for homeless people waiting outside. Wilrycx says he never fears for his personal safety. He knows God is watching out for him. “I can’t square in my head being of service to somebody and maybe risking a little safety. I feel things but I also feel protected,” he says. There are times, such as when he’s on his way to work or to an appointment, when Wilrycx can’t fully help a person at that particular moment. Still, he always stops. “I say, ‘Hey, here’s my situation. I want to help you. Do you have a cell? Can I give you my cell? What can I do to reconnect with you? Where’s your camp?’… And it always works out.” Wilrycx’s giving doesn’t come with any strings. Being kind and lending a hand isn’t about payback. “I need to remind myself that my job is to be of service, and I need to do so without any anticipation of what happens next. It’s one of the things I tell my friends because it’s a theme I hear often: ‘Oh, they’re just gonna turn it around and use it for alcohol or buy some cigarettes.’ My deal, my arrangement with God is this: if I can meet the need, I meet it. I don’t

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But when he ran into the father of the second family a few days later, he didn’t get that same sense of gratitude. This is where Wilrycx says he has to be mindful that serving others isn’t about making himself feel good. “I said, ‘Hey, how was your Thanksgiving?’… He was, like, ‘Oh, it was fine.’ He made a comment about the kids or whatever and I was, like, ‘Oh, okay. Well, I hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving.’ And so, he walks away and my first thought was, ‘Oh, not even a thank you.’ Like, this is just where I went, right? And, so, here’s the grace: ‘This guy’s world is on fire, and you want a thank you?’... This bigger weight came over me and said, ‘This guy’s world is on fire and for one night he didn’t have to worry about something he might have to worry about. Can you just be with that? Can you be with that in silence?’”

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career telling the stories of the people and places that make Middle Tennessee special, first as a television news producer and now as a contributor at 372WN. Her favorite West Nashville spot is Percy Warner Park, where she loves to run the 5.8. Mary Katherine is obsessed with her two corgis so if you want to get on her good side, tell her how cute her "fur babies" are.


OCTOBER 5, 2019

10 AM – 6 PM Centennial Park Free Admission Entertainment, Kid’s Activities, Marketplace, Food Vendors

Presented by

www.celebratenashville.org August–September 2019 | 372WN.com

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written and photographed by

Hannah HERNER

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New West Nashville-based nonprofit brings showers on wheels to those experiencing homelessness.

August–September 2019 | 372WN.com

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eredith MacLeod was scrolling through Facebook when she saw a post that caught her eye. A video showed an organization in San Francisco called Lava Mae, which brings mobile showers via a bus to people experiencing homelessness. After doing some research, she learned that Nashville only had about 15 total shower heads open for people in need at the time. Russ Arnold saw a need for showers for the people he served when he volunteered at Green Street Church of Christ, which offers a slew of services specifically for those experiencing homelessness. So he bought an old school bus

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and worked with a team of people to outfit it with two showers and sinks, one of them accessible for those with disabilities. The Contributor street newspaper published an article about him, and MacLeod read it. Inspired, she met with him. By the end of that meeting she became the second-in-command, the chief administrator of a nonprofit called Shower the People. Each week, people experiencing homelessness can step on the Shower the People bus and get a shower, clean underwear and socks and a renewed sense of confidence. From an office on Centennial Boulevard, MacLeod works on the logistical side of things while Arnold


takes care of the bus and takes it around town. The bus can hook up to a fire hydrant, and it carries up to 300 gallons of water onboard— that’s 20 to 25 showers. Shower the People got its nonprofit 501c3 status in 2015 and rolled out its showers on wheels service in May 2019. The organization is part of the Continuum of Care, which is a group of organizations in Nashville that are committed to working together toward ending homelessness. While the bus was being outfitted, MacLeod says she and Arnold focused on building trust with people who are experiencing homelessness in Nashville, especially those in encampments. She says it was important to build those relationships, so they could have buy-in from people who live on the streets —who often keep their lives very private to protect themselves. Not having access to a shower can be a barrier for those experiencing homelessness to be able to

change their situation. It prevents people from being able to put their best foot forward at an interview for a job or for housing. MacLeod, who once worked with Needlink, a local organization that provides emergency financial assistance, says she appreciates the simplicity and direct service aspect of Shower the People’s mission.

“We realized that it was something that we could help make a difference with—providing such a basic necessity for people,” she says. “It’s kind of an easy sell. . . . It’s easy to understand how there’s that need.” Every Wednesday, Shower the People offers showers at the Oasis Center near Fisk University from

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“Seeing the transition that people go through just getting a hot shower and getting clean socks and underwear is incredible” –Meredith MacLeod

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small organization, MacLeod says if someone wants to get involved, just reach out. It takes more than one person to Shower the People.

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Behind the scenes, Shower the People could always use travel-sized shampoo and conditioner bottles, socks, underwear and towels. The organization also hosts a big event to tie-dye towels and organize hygiene products monthly. In a such a

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11:00 a.m. until the line ends. After that, they will stop by known encampments. The organization is looking to expand regularly scheduled locations. Neither of Shower the People’s organizers is paid to work on this project. MacLeod feels most moved by seeing an obvious change in confidence from people before and after the shower. “I think the biggest part is seeing people kind of disheveled going in to the shower. Even just with their posture, they’re kind of closed in,” she says. “And then when they come out they’re much more open and willing to give us a hug and say thank you. Seeing the transition that people go through just getting a hot shower and getting clean socks and underwear is incredible because I know it’s something I used to take for granted.” Shower the People is looking to expand by creating a mobile laundry facility on a separate bus. This could enable people experiencing homelessness to save money that might be used at a coin-operated laundry and to preserve the clothing they have for longer. MacLeod says she was inspired to move in this direction when she saw people just throwing out dirty clothes when they used the shower bus. For those looking to get involved in Shower the People’s mission, MacLeod says it is crucial to find locations that are willing to let the bus set up in their parking lot to serve the homeless population nearby. They struggle with people calling the police when they see a crowd gathering. Shower the People also welcomes requests and tips when citizens see a need in a certain area of town. Volunteers can sign up through Hands On Nashville to help with the weekly shower service.

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Special to

WEST NASHVILLE DREAM CENTER New space, new hope, new dreams

We get asked a lot, “So what do you do?” It’s easy for us to share results, show numbers and statistics about all the programs we offer; we think the power of a story, however, more adequately describes the heartbeat of our organization.

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by

Miranda TELFORD

photos provided by West Nashville Dream Center and used with permission

Tey and family: Jaquita’s son, Tey, and family performing at the 2018 WNDC 5K.

August–September 2019 | 372WN.com

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Two little girls born the same year. Different cities, similar circumstances.

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he first little girl grew up in a home with an absentee father and a mother who was an addict. She moved around from family member to family member until stepping out on her own at 16 years old, vowing to be a different person than how she was brought up. She went to college, found a career she loved, married, had children and lives a relatively stable, healthy life. There is another little girl with

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West Nashville Dream Center Executive Director, T.J. Fletcher and Jaquita Mae.

a very similar story who grew up with a mother who was an addict and a father who would never visit—the struggle and desire to be better pushed her to work her way through school. Life took a turn and left this little girl as a young single mother feeling helpless. Her dreams got lost. This little girl wandered down a lonely path that led her searching for love everywhere but continually experiencing more hurt.

Why did the first little girl make it out? What gave her the strength to fight the negative and push through the trauma of her past? She had a community who cared for her. Parents of her friends, a pastor and a teacher all reminded her of her worth every day. They fed her and gave her places to sleep. They protected her when she needed it and made sure went to counseling. They believed in her worth, so one day she believed in her value, as well.


The first little girl is our executive director, T.J. The second is our friend, Jaquita. We met Jaquita through picking up her kids with the West Nashville Dream Center van to attend our Summer is For Kids day camp. We knew she had to be an exceptional woman, because her kids were a light to us, and we looked forward to seeing them each week. She began attending our Sunday worship service with her kids after that summer. We would invite her to stay for the Dream Center Moms group, and she would politely decline. However, in Summer 2017, everything changed. Jaquita was suffering from deep depression. Life felt so heavy, and she tried to take her own life. We dropped by one afternoon after that incident with food from our food ministry and gave Jaquita a chance to share where she was and how we could help. From that day forward, Jaquita began to rely on the safe, positive community we have to offer, and now she and her kids are with us several times during the week hanging out or volunteering. Three years have passed, and we’ve watched Jaquita overcome so much. Jaquita found a place that loved her kids, loved her, fed her family, believed her kids could go to college and do all the things she never got to do. Then one day, she started to believe the same things about herself. She found the community T.J. had as a child. She may have discovered it at 35 instead of in her teens, but it wasn’t too late. When she wept as her son Tey walked across the stage to graduate this past May at the top of his class, we remembered her telling us that as a single mom she knew she had to make sure her kids got out of the cycle. As tired as she was, she sat him down at the kitchen table every single night to study. He is a kid who had to face obstacles his whole life. However, he is a kid raised by a mother who fought

harder than anyone to get him to this stage of his life, and he will attend Belmont University this fall. The West Nashville Dream Center exists for women like Jaquita and her children. We are a family that believes everyone should have a voice. We believe in second chances. We celebrate our differences. It’s a place where everyone—yes, everyone without discriminating— gets the same chance at life. Our programs serve under-resourced, single-mother led families in the West Nashville area with focus neighborhoods of service: Clifton Pike/40th Avenue corridor, Historic Preston Taylor, Village West Apartments and the Skyview Apartment complex. We meet basic needs,

provide family-strengthening tools and also facilitate community-building events—all to increase the safety and quality of life in the community. Our mission is to protect and empower those living in crisis. In June 2018, we found ourselves in a situation much like the people we serve: We lost the lease to our home of five years due to the landlords wanting to sell the property. It didn’t stop us from serving. For the past year, we took our programs to a mobile, seven-day-a-week ministry. We saw a 473% increase from 2017 in the distribution of perishable foods with the addition of mobile food sites, thanks to our food rescue partners Second Harvest, Sprouts, Aldi and Whole Foods.

Jaquita was beaming at son Tey’s graduation. Tey is the first in his family to attend college. He will be a freshman at Belmont University this Fall. August–September 2019 | 372WN.com

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Jaquita and her son, Aarion, posing for a pic at a mother-son retreat this past fall.

In March of this year, we secured a permanent home on 39th Avenue, less than a quarter of a mile from our first location on Delaware Avenue. Construction on the warehouse space, previously Southern Roofing Company, will began this summer with a projected move-in date later this year. “The past year was probably our most challenging and most rewarding year, all at the same time,” said T.J. Fletcher, executive director. “We are so ready to have a physical location again and continue to be part of a community of people we have done life with for six years!” On September 10, we will partner for the third year with Fat Bottom Brewing Company to present Taste of West Nashville, a family-friendly event that will highlight some of the local restaurants, new and long-standing staples, in the growing area of The Nations and surrounding neighborhoods. Proceeds from the event benefit the West Nashville Dream Center and support the funds needed to facilitate its programs every week. (In full disclosure, 372WN is a media sponsor for this event.) Each restaurant will serve snack-size portions of some of their signature dishes for guests to enjoy. Meghan Linsey, 2015 The Voice finalist, will headline the

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Jaquita and her son, Aarion, attending a mother-son dance this past fall.

A group of WNDC students were invited to tour the TN Army and Air National Guard. Jaquita’s son, Paullion, is pictured here. He also earned a scholarship worth $3000 to attend a technology camp in Arizona this Summer.


Jaquita’s daughter, Arrionya, performing at the first West Nashville Dream Center Thanksgiving dinner in 2016.

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August–September 2019 | 372WN.com

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event, and other local artists will perform. A silent auction will take place with goods and services from West Nashville businesses, as well as Nashville sports teams and local entertainers. There is a full restaurant list available on the event website, www.tasteofwestnash.com. Tickets are $35 and include food samples and nonalcoholic drinks. Children 12 and younger receive free access. Purchase tickets at www.tasteofwestnash.com. Fat Bottom brews and wine are available for purchase at the event with valid ID, 21 and up. IN

Miranda Telford serves as communications director for the West Nashville Dream Center.

Jaquita’s son, Paullion, performing a rap at the 2018 WNDC 5K.

Jaquita’s son, Daichaun, is a talented athlete. He is spending a month of his summer at a sports camp in Massachusetts. He earned a scholarship to the camp based on his abilities.

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If you’ve ever been to the Senior Renaissance Center, then you’ve met Judith Redmond. She has been at the center for 15 of the 31 years it’s been open.

by Naomi GOLDSTONE photos by Lakeithea Anderson

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Judith

REDMOND: THE SENIOR RENAISSANCE CENTER’S FEARLESS LEADER

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West Nashville native, Judith was born on July 13, 1943. She spent her early years at 4314 Delaware Ave. with her mom, dad and older brother, David Lee “Scoochie” Redmond. Her father worked as a switchman at the railroad—first at Cain Avenue and then at L & N. Her mother was a homemaker at the time. When she was 4 1/2, Judith contracted rheumatic fever and was bedridden for 18 months. “I could get up for one hour each day,” Judith recalled, “and for that one hour, I played disc jockey on the record player someone donated to me.” Her church later gave Judith a parakeet. “I opened the cage one day during my free hour, and then there was no more bird,” Judith said, laughing.

That church, which Judith attended from age 4 until a few years ago, was West Nashville United Methodist Church on Charlotte Avenue. The space now houses Hathorne Restaurant and the Clementine event venue. “I sang in the choir for a number of years and taught Sunday School classes,” Judith said. Judith attended Cockrill Elementary until the second grade, and in June 1951, she and her family moved to a house on 54th Avenue in Sylvan Park. She attended Sylvan Park Elementary and then Cohn High School from seventh to 12th grade. The summer before her junior year of high school, Judith’s mom—who at 41 had thought she was entering menopause—instead gave birth to a baby boy: William Edley, whom

August–September 2019 | 372WN.com

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The Senior Renaissance Center

Needs YOU!

The Senior Renaissance Center is a non-profit, five-day program operating Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., offering a lot of programming on a very small budget. They offer legal and medical programs and each spring, coordinate with the West Precinct for a presentation about safety issues, scams, etc. affecting everyone, particularly seniors. Some attend daily, some come only for certain activities. It’s a great place for seniors to find community, stay active and socialize.

ACTIVITIES SCHEDULE: Mondays and Fridays: Game days, featuring bingo, cards, pool and more. Second Tuesday: Special feature—might be “DJ with Judy,” karaoke or a special guest speaker. Fourth Tuesday is Bingo Bash and celebrate that particular month’s birthdays. (The Kroger’s on Harding Road has been donating our cake and ice cream since July 2012.) Second and fourth Wednesdays: Trivia practice, 9:30 a.m.–11:00 a.m. Thursdays: “Seated in-the-round” exercise class, 9:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m. Third Wednesday: “Live Music” with Mariann’s Pure Country Band and Jim Milliken & Friends Band, 9:30 a.m.–11:00 a.m.

CURRENT NEEDS: • Someone to call bingo games on Mondays and Fridays • Donations, shoppers and volunteers for the SRC’s on-going Flea Market/Clothing Rack sales (Vickie Stanfield, manager)

THE SENIOR RENAISSANCE CENTER HOSTS SEVERAL ANNUAL FUNDRAISING EVENTS, ONE PER QUARTER. MAKE PLANS NOW TO ATTEND! Community Fallfest: Saturday, October 19th, 2019, 7:00 a.m.–noon • Pancake Breakfast/Silent Auction/Clothing Rack/ Cohn Quilters’ Country Store. • All Pancake tickets are $5. • No Admission Charge to shop—if you don't like pancakes, come shop! • Silent Auction: gift cards and merchandise from area merchants • Flea Market and “Oldies but Goodies” Clothing Rack • Cohn Quilters Country Store Christmas Bazaar: Tuesday, November 12th, 2019, 9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. • Booth/tables are rented for $25 each • 10–12 booths available, in addition to the Senior Renaissance Center booths • Light refreshments Community Springfest: April 18, 2020, 7:00 a.m.–noon If you missed Fallfest, Springfest is the spring version! Christmas in July: July 2–31, 2020 Get a jump on Christmas! Decorations, wrapping paper, clothing, jewelry, houseware items, and more.

Businesses, organizations and individuals may donate to these programs with monies, items and of course, their time.

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the family called Eddie. When Judith had gotten to elementary school, her mom had gone to work. And because she was really good at selling Stanley Home Products, as soon as she was able after Eddie’s birth, she went back to work. “So, at 16, I became responsible for taking care of the house and my baby brother,” Judith said. During the Christmas season of her senior year in high school, Judith worked at W.T. Grant, a department store on Church Street in downtown Nashville; she made 50 cents an hour. “I worked in the men’s department, and sometimes I worked in housewares. Of course, I didn’t know anything about housewares,” Judith recalled. She even had to work in the men’s underwear department during a co-worker’s lunch break. “I distinctly requested not to be put there again,” Judith said, chuckling. “Never again.”

After graduating from Cohn in May 1961, Judith attended George Peabody College for Teachers. Though she enjoyed all of the classes she took, Judith said she missed out on so much because she did not live on campus. “My girlfriend’s father took us, and my mother picked us up,” Judith said. After a year, Judith left Peabody. “Mom and Dad had decided what I was going to do, and I don’t think I really wanted to be a teacher,” Judith said. “I can’t remember what changed my mind about teaching,

though it might have been raising Eddie, who was a handful.” After leaving Peabody, Judith attended Falls Business College, where she took the Executive Secretarial Business course of study. After graduating in April 1963, Judith went back to working parttime at W.T. Grant until she got a full-time position with the Newspaper Printing Corp., which was then the agent for The Tennessean and the Nashville Banner. She started out making $50 per week, and after taxes she said she ended up with $41. “We did all the accounting for them. I worked in accounting for classified and then did national advertising, and then I ended up in circulation,” Judith said. On Oct. 15, 1971, Judith married and moved to Donelson. “Everyone kept saying, ‘Why don’t you get married,’ and so I did,” Judith said. However, after six months, Judith said she realized she had made a

Classes start Sept. 3 Join us for affordable classes in languages, cooking, art + more. Fall 2019 registration is open and ongoing!

Most classes are located at the Cohn School in Sylvan Park

Register now at nashville.gov/ce August–September 2019 | 372WN.com

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Senior Renaissance Center. “This program saved my life,” Judith said. “I was grieving and needed something to get my mind off of that. I didn’t need to sit at home; I needed to stay active.” In July 2012, Judith took over as the center’s director. Though her budget at the center is “very small,” Judith plans many activities each day for the seniors. “Some seniors just come to eat lunch, to play bingo, trivia, pool or to just sit in the rocking chair and chit chat and eat cookies and drink coffee,” she said. Judith also leads exercise classes, and the third Wednesday of every month features a live band. “The seniors love to get out there and dance,” she said. Judith is very proud of the work she has done at the Senior Renaissance Center, and she loves the people who come each day. “This is my second family,” she said. Still, she wishes her mother could have seen the work she is doing. “Mom would have been so proud of this place,” Judith said. ST

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mother was “still feisty” and in pretty good health, Judith moved back in at her house on 54th Avenue with her to keep her company and to be her chauffeur, since the doctors had suggested her mother no longer drive. After her mother suffered a debilitating stroke in October 2000, Judith found people to help her care for her mom while she worked full-time. In March 2002, Judith retired from The Tennessean and spent the next 18 months being her mom’s full-time caretaker. “We had the time of our lives,” Judith recalled. “We were closer than we had ever been. I kept her hair cut and her nails polished, and I made sure she was comfortable and happy.” On December 31, 2003, Judith’s mother passed away. “I thought it was fitting that she would die on New Year’s Eve,” Judith said, “because she and Dad would be together again to party all night.” Judith, however, spent the next four and a half months “just taking care of business and trying to get used to being by myself, because I was so used to taking care of her.” It was after her mother’s death that Judith became more involved with the Cohn Alumni group. “They didn’t have a secretary, so I said I’d be their secretary. I’ve been their secretary since 2004,” she said. In July 2004, Judith began working as the activities coordinator for the

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big mistake. “No one in my family had ever divorced, so I stuck it out for three and a half more years,” she said. As she reflected on her only marriage, Judith said that she and her husband got along well “but we were basically friends. I loved to dance, and he did, too. I loved to cook, and he loved to eat.” Judith never gave up on love, though. “I’ve had my romances, and I’ve had my sweethearts,” Judith said. “I had one sweetheart, and we went together on and off for 10 years. But, my dad was sick and my mom needed my attention, so we broke up for good.” In 1982, Judith began working at the Plant and Building Services department of The Tennessean. “I had gone to school to train to become an executive secretary, and I was doing accounting but really wanted to be a secretary,” Judith remembered. Her boss, she said, was the best boss you could ever have. “He always tried to find something good,” she said. “I was his only admin, and I was the only female in the building.” In 1983—at the age of 40—Judith started running with some people she worked with at The Tennessean. She and “a couple of fellows she worked with” trained on the track behind the School for the Blind on Lebanon Road. Judith stopped running in 1993 because she no longer had time to train. “We used to say that my father had nine lives, and when he got sick for the last time, I had to help my mom take care of him,” Judith said. Her father’s death on Oct. 25, 1990, hit her harder than she expected. “I took my father’s passing very, very bad,” she recalled. “I didn’t know how to handle grief.” Judith said that Reba’s song, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” always seemed to be playing on her car radio at the same time on her way to work every morning. “This was my dad,” she said, fondly. In September 1997, Judith moved back to West Nashville—“God’s Country,” she calls it. Though her

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YOU'RE INVITED

TASTE OF WEST NASHVILLE Fat Bottom Brewing Co., 800 44th Ave N, 37209 $35 Adults |12 and under free ADD SUBHEADING Fat Bottom brews available for purchase at event

5:30-8:30 PM

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www.tasteofwestnash.com Signature bites from the following restaurants:

August–September 2019 | 372WN.com

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NASHVILLE DIAPER CONNECTION

One Less Barrier to Break the Cycle of Poverty by Hannah HERNER

photos courtesy of the Nashville Diaper Connection and used with permission

One in three American families reports experiencing diaper need. In Tennessee, 15% of children under age one live below the federal poverty line. That’s nearly 36,800 children in need, according to data compiled by the National Diaper Bank Network.

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oug Adair didn’t know all of this when he started Nashville Diaper Connection out of his garage in June 2013. He was inspired to host the organization’s first diaper drive by a church social justice series. He asked the speaker, “What can I do to help?” “Get me some diapers,” they replied. “No problem. Why diapers?” Adair asked. He soon learned why, and then he made solving those problems a priority. The Nashville Diaper Connection, headquartered in The Nations, has a goal of leaving “No Child Wet Behind.” They distribute 70,000 diapers per month through 29 partners in the Nashville area.

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and child care and always had a passion for early child development. Shortly after Hagblom was hired, Adair became the second official employee—the president of Nashville Diaper Connection. Adair was a mortgage banker before he

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When Adair decided to work on filling the diaper void, he researched what resources were available in Nashville. At the time, he says he found 187 places to get food, a bunch of places to get help with bills and only two places to get diapers. One had a waiting list six weeks long. A baby goes through about 200 diapers a month, which ends up costing about $80, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. That can equal $1,000 per year per child. Even families who get federal assistance, such as SNAP benefits, cannot use that money on diapers. “There’s no federal, state or local safety net for diapers. No food stamp equivalent, no WIC voucher equivalent,” Adair says. “If you’re lucky enough to have a child that has a flexible spending account, you can’t even spend your own flex spending dollars on diapers. I can buy Rogaine, I can buy Viagra, but I can’t buy diapers. It’s just stupid.” The organization was operating under 100% volunteer power until it hired Kelly Hagblom as its volunteer coordinator and first official employee in July 2018. Hagblom has a background in education

became a diaper banker. Nashville Diaper Connection defers to the partner organizations for the best ways to distribute diapers to the communities they serve. These partners are strategically focused in areas where the poverty is over 25%, shown by Census data. Some are open partners, where people can pick up diapers. Other places keep Diaper Connection diapers on hand in case of a need, such as YWCA domestic violence shelters, homes for foster children, organizations that do home visits and others. Partners buy the diapers at a small fee. They pay $350 for 25,000 diapers. In the last year, the smallest partner utilized 1,000 diapers, and the largest partner utilized 240,000 diapers. The only stipulation that Nashville Diaper Connection requires is some level of case management with the parent who picks up the diapers. The diapers bought or donated are wrapped into packs of 25 diapers,


“There’s no federal, state or local safety net for diapers. No food stamp equivalent, no WIC voucher equivalent.” –Doug Adair

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to prevent reselling, stretch the resources, and prevent wasting partially used packs. These are best practices learned and enforced by the National Diaper Bank Network. “One thing that we require is that partners have some level of case management with the mother that receives the diapers,” Adair says. “Because if the mom needs diapers, odds are she’s going to need other things.” When a child doesn’t have diapers, it can create a chain reaction of problems for the family. Most child care centers require that a child be supplied with a day’s worth of disposable diapers each day they are there. If a family doesn’t have those diapers, they may have to skip day care that day, which may cause a parent to miss work or school and the opportunities that come with that. “If you have a job or you’re going to school and you take your child to child care, you can’t afford to

miss work or school,” Hagblom says. “They have to pay for that child care, they have to pay for the diapers to bring with them. If they can’t provide the diapers, they still have to pay for that child’s care for that day, whether or not the child is there. And they miss a day’s worth of work … It’s just perpetuating the cycle of poverty.” Adair shared a story of a wrap event at Comcast. As he thanked one of the volunteers, she said to him, “I’m here because of Nashville Diaper Connection.” She was a single mom of twin baby boys who ended up living out of her car. She got connected with a Nashville Diaper Connection partner and with other local resources. She used the diapers she got to put her kids in daycare while she finished her degree. While she interviewed for the job at Comcast, the boys were wearing Nashville Diaper Connection Diapers, and with that job she is able to provide for her family.

Adair says this is exactly the kind of impact that Nashville Diaper Connection strives to make. The growth of this organization has been exponential. In Nashville Diaper Connection’s first year, they distributed 19,000 diapers total. They distributed their millionth diaper after nearly five years in operation, and the goal is to distribute another million in 2020 alone. Still, this huge number of diapers addresses less than five percent of the need, based on how many diaper-aged children live in poverty in Nashville. So Nashville Diaper Connection’s long-term plan is to focus on diapers. The organization’s original goal was to serve 5% of the need, and they are close to reaching it. Another goal of the organization is to raise awareness about toxic stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences, which can be direct results of a child not having a clean and dry diaper. Adair and Hagblom hope to be

“Because if the mom needs diapers, odds are she’s going to need other things.” –Doug Adair

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accepts donations of diapers, even partially used boxes. “When a mom comes home from the hospital, everybody gets her diapers. But they’re only newborn size for about five minutes,” Adair says. “It’s all exciting when the baby is first born and there’s tons or support. But nine months, 10 months, a year later, that

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able to move the needle on issues related to maternal health and infant health through the work they do. For those looking to help, Nashville Diaper Connection needs dollars, doers and diapers (in that order). The organization buys diapers in bulk, so any money donated can go further than if you bought the diapers yourself. For one dollar, they can get about $2.60 worth of diapers. Eleven dollars provides a pack of 50 diapers. Hands-on ways to help include holding a diaper drive at a church or business or arranging a “wrapping party” to organize the diapers into packs that go to the families. The organization also

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Hannah Herner is a journalist and Ohio

State graduate. She enjoys alternative music concerts and roller skating.

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Thirst for

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KNOWLEDGE by Mary

Katherine ROOKER

photos courtesy of Nashville Community Education and used with permission

Nashville Community Education makes lifelong learning fun and (sometimes) free

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hen Lori Bumgarner moved to Nashville 12 years ago, she found something lacking in her new city: affordable continuing education classes. “Where I used to live, in North Carolina, you could usually find those in community colleges. So when I moved here, I couldn’t find a community college that offered something like this. It took me forever. Finally, after being here for about nine years, I heard about Nashville Community Education Commission. A client told me about it, and I was, like, ‘Oh, my gosh! I’ve been looking for this for so long!’” Bumgarner said. Since then, Bumgarner, who owns a passion and career coaching service, has taken a variety of classes. “I’ve taken the Financial Success course, which was absolutely wonderful . . . I’ve taken a Kung Fu class, a cooking class. I’ve taken

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some of the classes this year, sponsored through Metro government, on female and minority-owned businesses,” she explained. Nashville Community Education (NCE) is an integral part of the city’s culture. Each semester, NCE offers

more than 100 classes on a variety of topics. Whether you’re interested in guitar, foreign languages, cooking, upholstery or picture framing, you’re likely to find a course through NCE. In Summer 2019, there were 130 classes. Mary Beth


Harding, executive director at NCE, says there will be 150 classes in Fall 2019. The majority of courses are at the Cohn School on Park Avenue in Sylvan Park. Other locations include Inglewood Elementary and Wright Middle Schools and the Nashville Farmers’ Market. Class sizes are small. At most, a language class might have 25 students. Because of limited space, sewing classes typically have six to eight students.

Affordable learning While some classes have a small fee, others don’t cost a penny. “The average class price is $35, and that could be for a one-night class all the way up to a 12-week class. So, they’re really affordable. About 20 percent of our classes are free, and that is just from the instructors wanting to volunteer. They [the

classes] don’t require any materials fees,” said Harding. Sheena Adams-Avery, who has taken courses through NCE for two years, said the quality—and price—can’t be beat. “The classes are inexpensive, and the teachers are awesome,” Adams-Avery said. Among the free classes are Key In-

struments of Estate Planning, Chair Yoga, Gentle Yoga and Explore Nashville’s Public Art.

Familiar favorites While courses vary each semester, many are always on the schedule. For example, NCE offers four or five yoga classes each session.

What to know for Fall 2019 A full list of classes can be found online at nashville.gov/Nashville-Community-Education. You can register early at an open house at the Cohn School, 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. on August 3. General registration (online, by phone or in person) begins August 6. Classes start the Tuesday after Labor Day.

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A passion to teach

Courses on financial and legal topics are also popular, as are cooking classes and foreign language classes. “We almost always have multiple ‘Spanish I’ offerings. So if somebody just wants to come in and learn the basics, we usually have at least four ‘Spanish I’ offerings. [We offer classes] all the way up through conversational Spanish. We also have French, Italian and Mandarin Chinese,” Harding said. Adams-Avery knows the Spanish curriculum well. Although she speaks French, Spanish has proven more difficult. “If I had learned Spanish first, they tell me it would be easier for me to learn French. But I didn’t. I did it backwards, and, therefore, I am struggling with Spanish. I have actually taken the ‘Spanish I’ twice and the ‘Spanish II’ twice, and now it’s time for me to take ‘Spanish III’ because I just cannot seem to get the conjugations right. That is a big thing for me. I always conjugate it as in

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French in my mind,” Adams-Avery explained, laughing. Courses that allow students to create, whether through music or with their hands, always garner high interest. “We have a leather bags class that, in the spring, had 35 people on the wait list,” Harding said. Guitar, ukulele and pottery classes are popular. Sewing classes are also sought-after. Harding said NCE always offers a beginning and an intermediate sewing course. Oil painting and picture framing are a big draw and will be back in the fall. “It’s a couple that teaches it. So, one person teaches oil painting and one person teaches picture framing. They’ve been with the program for over 13 years. They’re really exciting,” said Harding. Fencing is another class that’s always on the schedule. Unlike most NCE courses, which are for adults only, fencing is open to ages 13 and older.

From the office to the classroom, the staff at NCE are passionate about their program. Harding not only serves as executive director but also teaches yoga and cooking classes. LaKeithea Anderson started out as an instructor before going to work for NCE as the community engagement coordinator. Anderson teaches classes on social media, branding and journaling. “Going inside the classes as an instructor, meeting the new people, I learn so much more from my students than they do from me. I like that it’s not a huge program. You really get to know your students. You really get to know people in the community,” Anderson said. NCE is always looking for instructors, on one condition. “We just want you to be passionate and have a skill that you want to share,” Harding explained. Anyone in the community can propose an idea for a course by filling out a form on NCE’s website. “We don’t have any real requirements for instructors. We ask that you know what you’re talking about, that you be an expert in that field. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be certified or have a degree. You don’t even have to have graduated high school. We don’t ask for that kind of stuff. We just want some references to say you do know how to teach this subject,” Harding said. In this age of Instagram, photographers are high on the wish list. Harding said courses in basic photography are popular, but NCE has struggled to find instructors for those classes. Often, NCE students will become teachers themselves. Bumgarner has taught classes on topics related to professional skills, such as crafting a resume. As a career coach who helps people find their calling, she’s introduced NCE to her clients.


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that no matter how old you get, no matter where you are in life, you can always learn more, you can always change, you can always take time for yourself,” Harding said. Adams-Avery, who plans to take more classes in the fall, echoed the sentiment. “I’m that person who just loves lifelong learning. I don’t think we should ever stop learning. The more knowledge we have, the more we grow.”

Community in the classroom Many times, that first step into the classroom is the first step to a deeper understanding of Nashville’s richly diverse population. “We like to think that even though we’re part of the community, all those little classes are also their own little communities. People get to know each other. You meet somebody that maybe you never would have met before,” Harding said. Many students return each semester. It’s sort of like in elementary, middle or high school, except in this case, students want to be in class. “I was just telling a group recently with the Farmers’ Market, you really get to see the faces. You see the same faces over and over, to the fact that when she [the instructor] closes down, they’re so used to her and they’re so devoted, they’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll

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help you clean.’ Not only have they watched her cook and sampled the food, now they’re ready to help her clean up afterwards. It’s great,” Anderson remembered. It’s that dedication to lifelong learning that inspires students, teachers and staff. “I really love how empowering it is. I think, as adults especially, we get really nervous about going back to school or about learning new skills or meeting new people, and I just love that our program’s here without any pressure. . . . It’s just for you, and it’s a good reminder

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“I’ve referred my clients to [NCE’s] catalog to pick out some things that might help them expand their horizons and maybe discover some new passions. I had one client who took a guitar class, and she also took the Voiceover Basics class. And she’s now doing voiceovers as a side hustle because she signed up for the full thing after attending the basics class,” Bumgarner said.

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award-winning journalist. After nearly 20 years as a television news producer, the Murfreesboro native traded the TV screen for her laptop. An avid runner and sometimes triathlete, Mary Katherine lives in Green Hills with her husband. She's obsessed with her corgis, Phoebe & Fig, and cat, Sister Kitten (sung to the tune of 'Sister Christian').


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372Who kNew? Name: Lisa Brown, Nations resident

What’s your relationship to West Nashville? Favorite thing about our community? Favorite food? color? drink? dessert? hobby? If you could run any single company or organization in the world, which would you choose? Where will you be on Friday night? Dog or cat? Surf or turf? Dream occupation when you were five? What’s your superpower? What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world? What excites you most about West Nashville?

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