JJ Rosen, Hands On Nashville's first ever intern, reflects on being a part of something from the beginning.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE INTERN:
“When I was in college at Vanderbilt, part of our requirement was a full semester internship. Hands On Nashville was just forming with Hal Cato and the original members. I heard about the opportunity, and at the time there was no office. For my interview, we met in the clubhouse at Hal’s apartment complex. I interviewed in my jacket and tie to be there intern – I was 21 years old.
Hands On Nashville was a brand new organization, and Hal had just come up with the idea after seeing a story about something similar starting in Atlanta. It was a chance to be part of something from the ground up, and to help build it from the beginning.
Getting the Word Out:
I was the only intern, and at that time there were no other employees. After a few weeks, Hal came up with this office, which was a little more like a closet, over on 21st avenue that someone very generously donated. I moved in there by myself and it became the original Hands On Nashville office.
This was well before the web, so we created a paper newsletter along with a calendar [of volunteer projects] we mailed out.
Meeting Community Needs:
We would go talk to agencies and nonprofits and ask them what needs they had. Then we would create a calendar with the list of opportunities volunteers could sign up for.
Each project had a project coordinator – since this was before email, it was all by phone.
So we would write out ‘Meals On Wheels’; sign up and call ‘so and so’ -- we need 5 volunteers. Or, we are painting a house on Saturday and we need 15 volunteers.
We would literally print labels and mail them back out and people would just sign up. The projects at that time would fill up. It was like getting a table at a restaurant now in Nashville.
The first Hands On Nashville Day, we arrived downtown at the memorial and everyone was paranoid – 'Was this going to work?' We got there at 3 o'clock in the morning to set up… we probably over worked and over did it. But it worked.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE:
Hands On Nashville gave me the nudge I needed to get involved with something beyond my own needs.
I remember at one point, as part of the newsletters, I wrote as a joke, 'JJ the Intern was promoted to Chief Executive Intern at Hands On Nashville…'
In a way, I felt like I was the Intern / Executive Director -- it was awesome. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but the Board was very active and felt like I was starting something from scratch.
It’s a really great group and it’s very hard to start something like that. Hal was the catalyst but there were a lot of folks who were very active in making it happen...To see that many years later Hands On Nashville still has the same energy and that it has grown…it’s just great.