New Beginnings– a note from Abbey!

I’m writing this blog entry to you from Americus, GA.
That’s right, I’ve moved out of the Belle H. Bennett House.
I cannot tell you how many tears have been shed.

Let me start from the beginning…

As most have you have probably read or learned through other blog entries… Housing is my passion. It started in college. My freshman year I joined our Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter and quickly fell in love with Habitat’s mission and goals. One year later, I was voted in as the Chapter President.

I led our group on both Fall Break and Spring Break trips. We also worked closely with the Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Grand Island, Nebraska. It took no time at all for me to learn that direct service and volunteer coordination were my callings.

Then, during the summer of 2011, I had an internship in Chicago. As a part of that internship, we had many educational opportunities. One of those was travelling to Altgeld Gardens – a notoriously poor neighborhood. This neighborhood also has some of the most unhealthy living conditions in the United States. Built on top of what used to be a land fill – both air and water quality affect daily life for the neighborhoods residents. I left the neighborhood in tears that day.

Over the summer and during my senior year of college, I spent most of my time reading anything and everything on housing policy and better housing initiatives supported by the government.

When I was given the internship at Scarritt-Bennett Center, we got to choose our top three site placements. While perusing the list, I came across Room in the Inn’s Campus for Human Development. It was perfect. I had worked with individuals with some sort of shelter, be it poor most times, before, but I felt that Room in the Inn would be a perfect fit for me because I had never worked with individuals who didn’t have shelter at all. I felt that I would learn vital skills while serving those at Room in the Inn. Of course, I did.

When I realized that our time at the Belle H. Bennett House was quickly slipping away – I started applying for jobs. Now, I’ll be the first to admit this – I applied for 13 jobs in a little over two months. Eleven of those jobs were with Habitat for Humanity International or their headquarters. All of the jobs were in volunteer management or coordination. Two months into the application process, I got a call from Habitat for Humanity’s Human Resources department – they wanted to interview me for the Collegiate Challenge Associate position.

Two interviews later, I was hired! But starting in just two short weeks.

So, after many tears, countless conversations, and so many goodbye hugs my ribs were starting to hurt – ok, not really – I packed up my things and moved to Georgia.

Of course, I miss the Belle H. Bennett House. Ally’s not around to listen to me complain or wake me up from naps. Kristen isn’t providing the house a nightly road block by falling asleep on the den floor. Gabby isn’t there to gossip and laugh with. And Marie doesn’t have Bella in tow. These four women brought me so much happiness over the last seven months. They also taught me so many things. How do you repay that?

…a free vacation spot in tiny Americus, GA?

Two weeks ago, I was, quite literally, thrown into the world of Collegiate Challenge. Not only did I enter during our busiest week, but we also had our National Conference for all Habitat affiliates taking place in Atlanta. Today, I am responsible for coordinating all Collegiate Challenge trips, year-round. Last week, I probably sent out 600 emails. This week, we have 80 teams working with nearly as many affiliates. It’s busy, but I couldn’t be happier.

Read more here:

To all of you reading, thank you for your unending support!
Marie, Ally, KDB, and Gabby – y’all are the best!


–Abbey Jenkins




Abbey at BHB House on August 1, 2012!


Book ’em and Bethlehem Centers — Reading with Kids! — by Kristen

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you…They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. –Anne Lamott


My volunteer placement is Book’em, a Nashville children’s literacy nonprofit. The vision of Book’em is for every child in Nashville to be given an equal opportunity to experience the joy of owning and reading books. We attempt to meet this vision through several programs, including Ready for Reading. Ready for Reading sends reading volunteers to preschools in low-income areas of Davidson County to read to children.

My position at Book’em has allowed me to have the opportunity be a Ready for Reading volunteer at Bethlehem Centers of Nashville. Bethlehem Centers of Nashville, a National Mission Institution of the United Methodist Women, have been opened for over 100 years with the intention of helping people living in poverty in North Nashville. Both Scarritt-Bennett Center and Bethlehem Centers of Nashville are properties owned by the United Methodist Women and have a long history of working together on collaborative projects. Historically, both organizations have been safe places where people of all races can come and learn together. Bethlehem Centers was opened by two women, Sallie Sawyer, an African-American graduate of Fisk University and Estelle Haskins, a Caucasian missionary. By starting the ministry of Bethlehem Centers, these two women abandoned gender and racial norms of the time, in order to fulfill the needs they saw in the community. Bethlehem Centers of Nashville provides childcare and education to children and youth and services for seniors, among other forms of community outreach.

As a Ready for Reading volunteer, I visit the preschool for an hour once each week to read one-on-one with the children. That hour always goes by so fast. My hour usually starts out with me sitting in the reading room, a colorful room with a big couch full of pillows and stuffed animals, waiting for the first child who will read with me. I can either bring books, which has given me loads of opportunities to visit the library, or I can read books they provide from their very fun children’s library. No matter what, though, the child always gets to choose what they want to read. The child and I will read around three books together, before they go back to class and another child comes in to read with me. It is always so enriching to watch a child as they discover a book. Some children stare at that book and listen so carefully, while others talk in amazement about every page. Some children want to read the book to me, and others want me to read to them AND the reading room’s big stuffed dog. No matter how they want me to read to them, I am always delighted at the opportunity to share my love of reading with them.






For more information about Bethlehem Centers of Nashville, please visit









set your life on fire…


–email Marie at for an application–

PRIORITY Application Deadline: February 1

FINAL Application Deadline: March 1

Program Dates: July 31, 2013-June 1, 2014


garden: october & november

our chalkboard garden sign (when it isn’t washed clean by the rain!)

These pictures were taken the week after we planted in mid-October.



spinach, turnips, & radishes

These pictures were taken TODAY! November 16! Just a month later…

spinach, turnips, radishes!

cover crop: peas & oats (look at how much the peas have grown!!!)

compost! thanks to Chef Jen 🙂

our visit to thistle farms! by abbey

When I first heard of Thistle Farms, I thought (as almost any person from the Midwest would) that we would be travelling to the outskirts of the city to an organization that worked and manufactured goods in the same location. I imagined a quiet, peaceful place surrounded by quiet, peaceful land – the ultimate escape for women who had struggled in the streets. What I discovered was quite the opposite.

Driving away from downtown on Charlotte, you will notice a huge purple sculpture meant to resemble a thistle. This is the location of Thistle Farms. Located off of Charlotte, a very busy, rush hour traffic road with a bus stop right outside the paper shop door, the offices and workshop are nowhere near an open field – as I had pictured. The Thistle Farms workshop may have been located on a busy street, but all parts of it provided the quiet, peaceful sanctuary I had imagined.

Immediately, we were placed in a circle and introductions followed. Through those introductions we celebrated days, weeks, months, and years of sobriety and visitors (like myself) to Thistle Farms. Most visitors of Thistle Farms are there to learn how to replicate the program. So, we were introduced to social enterprise and the history of Magdalene House and Thistle Farms through Becca Stevens, the founder of the two programs.

Her vision started while working at Room in the Inn. Quickly recognizing that women had fewer resources available to them – Magdalene House was formed. Magdalene House accepts any adult women who are homeless, addicted, and prostituting themselves to promote their addiction. Within Magdalene House, it took little time for Becca to realize that 90% of the women were unemployable. Here, Thistle Farms began – inside a chapel. Originally, Thistle Farms only hired women who were residents of Magdalene House and women who were unemployable – the workforce being their mission. Becca illustrated this with a description of a flower:

The center: the women, the community

The outside: sole focus is to work to aid the women

The community provided for these women is the safest and most supportive many of them have ever had. This is a group of women who were victims long before they were labeled as criminals. As such, they have access to counselors and therapists and each other at all times.

For women who come addicted to drugs and/or alcohol (as most of the women do), Magdalene House lifts a huge burden off of their shoulders. When the women enter Magdalene House, they no longer have to worry about their basic rights – access to healthy food, clean water, and secure housing. Upon entering Magdalene House, they can focus all of their energy on recovery.

A large part of that recovery process for most of the women is their work with Thistle Farms. As mentioned earlier, Thistle Farms started in a chapel that Becca had been working in. While growing steadily, the women were learning more and more about the healing power of the thistle. While coated in a hard, spike-y exterior, the thistle, on the inside, is as soft and delicate as nearly every other flower – and apt metaphor for the women who were a part of the program. Creating lotions, candles, body balms, and lip balms (just to name a few) with thistles ended up provided work and a natural remedy for the women working at Thistle Farms.

Part of the program behind Thistle Farms is for those who support the cause to host house parties enabling others to come here the stories of women in the programs and test some of their products. We are hosting one of these parties December 8. In addition to the 300 people we have already invited, anyone reading this blog is more than welcome to come and join us. See you soon!



what would wendell do– by marie

“Without prosperous local economies, the people have no power and the land no voice.” (Berry-The-Idea-of-a-Local-Economy)

We read Wendell Berry. We visited a farm. We learned at Highlander. We have lots of ideas about what it means to care about and engage local communities, neighborhood, identity, land, place, culture, popular economics.

…Now what?

Well, we decided on a least one movement forward– start a garden, green our space, grow food. Last night, BHB House hosted our first garden interest meeting with some of our new friends: Jennifer Jameson at Nashville Folk + Free Skool and Marylindsay Sherrill at Green Door Gourmet farm. We are so excited to partner with them on this collaborative garden project. We hope that we can learn more about what it means to work, care for land, grow our own food, collaborate, etc. We also hope that the garden will provide space for demonstrations, workshops, trainings, etc. so we can share what we learn! Be on the lookout for an update. We break ground in just a few hours!


Though people have not progressed beyond the need to eat food and drink water and wear clothes and live in houses, most people have progressed beyond the domestic arts — the husbandry and wifery of the world — by which those needful things are produced and conserved. In fact, the comparative few who still practise that necessary husbandry and wifery often are inclined to apologize for doing so, having been carefully taught in our education system that those arts are degrading and unworthy of people’s talents. Educated minds, in the modern era, are unlikely to know anything about food and drink, clothing and shelter. In merely taking these things for granted, the modern educated mind reveals itself also to be as superstitious a mind as ever has existed in the world. What could be more superstitious than the idea that money brings forth food?We are involved now in a profound failure of imagination. Most of us cannot imagine the wheat beyond the bread, or the farmer beyond the wheat, or the farm beyond the farmer, or the history beyond the farm. Most people cannot imagine the forest and the forest economy that produced their houses and furniture and paper; or the landscapes, the streams and the weather that fill their pitchers and bathtubs and swimming pools with water. Most people appear to assume that when they have paid their money for these things they have entirely met their obligations…

Money does not bring forth food. Neither does the technology of the food system. Food comes from nature and from the work of people. If the supply of food is to be continuous for a long time, then people must work in harmony with nature. That means that people must find the right answers to a lot of hard practical questions. The same applies to forestry and the possibility of a continuous supply of timber.

One way we could describe the task ahead of us is by saying that we need to enlarge the consciousness and the conscience of the economy. Our economy needs to know — and care — what it is doing. This is revolutionary, of course, if you have a taste for revolution, but it is also a matter of common sense…

What I have been talking about is the possibility of renewing human respect for this Earth and all the good, useful and beautiful things that come from it. I have made it clear, I hope, that I don’t think this respect can be adequately enacted or conveyed by tipping our hats to nature or by representing natural loveliness in art or by prayers of thanksgiving or by preserving tracts of wilderness — although I recommend all those things. The respect I mean can be given only by using well the world’s goods that are given to us. This good use, which renews respect — which is the only currency, so to speak, of respect — also renews our pleasure. The callings and disciplines that I have spoken of as the domestic arts are stationed all along the way from the farm to the prepared dinner, from the forest to the dinner table, from stewardship of the land to hospitality to friends and strangers. These arts are as demanding and gratifying, as instructive and as pleasing, as the so-called “fine arts”. To learn them is, I believe, the work that is our profoundest calling. Our reward is that they will enrich our lives and make us glad.


Nashville Folk + Free Skool:

We are a volunteer-run collective of Nashvillians dedicated to creative living and the sustainability of culture. We host and participate in several free, monthly, workshops on topics ranging from organic gardening, to photography, to bookbinding, to square dance-calling, to oral history techniques, and so on. We value the passing on of old and new crafts and skills through the folk tradition of community engagement and through person-to-person mentorship and apprenticeship. We also offer roundtable discussions and symposia on local and global issues and topics of interest. We encourage all to feel welcome to take a workshop, and also to teach a workshop, as we believe everyone has some valuable art, craft, or skill to pass on.

Rooted in the American folk school tradition of informal, non-competitive education in folk and traditional arts, and the in the collectivist and collaborative values of the free skool movement, the Nashville Folk + Free Skool seeks to engage an accessible local discourse on, and participation in interest-, tradition-, and skill-sharing guided by a 21st century D-I-Y ethos.



We learn a lot from Marshall Ganz!

Friends of Justice

Marshall Ganz is a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  He played an instrumental, and largely anonymous, role in shaping Barack Obama’s recent campaign.  Most importantly, Dr. Ganz has served as mentor to my daughter (and Friends of Justice board member) Lydia Bean.  This understanding of story has helped Friends of Justice understand the power of our narrative strategy. I don’t have to tell you anything more because Marshall Ganz begins with his own story.  This article is taken from the current issue of Sojourners

Why Stories Matter
The art and craft of social change.

by Marshall Ganz

I grew up in Bakersfield, California, where my father was a rabbi and my mother was a teacher. I went to Harvard in 1960, in part because it was about as far as I could get from Bakersfield, which was the terminus of the dust bowl migration that John Steinbeck made famous…

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highlander center by ally vertigan!

Our Trip to Highlander Center’s 80th Anniversary Celebration, Sept 1-2, 2012 “Highlander serves as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South. We work with people fighting for justice, equality and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny. Through popular education, participatory research, and cultural work, we help create spaces — at Highlander and in local communities — where people gain knowledge, hope and courage, expanding their ideas of what is possible. We develop leadership and help create and support strong, democratic organizations that work for justice, equality and sustainability in their own communities and that join with others to build broad movements for social, economic and restorative environmental change.”

We spend a lot of time here learning about community and how it can transform the way we understand our lives.  Abbey, Kristen, Gabby, and I signed up for this. We signed up to live our lives together.  The Belle H Bennett house is our community.  Through my experiences here thus far, I’ve grown to learn that community is not just people you live with.  Community can be a setting that is committed to growth, trust, mutual accountability, transparency, and the highest degree of self-actualization through the empowerment of the other.

We traveled to the Highlander Research and Education Center to experience that kind of community.  At 4:30 in the morning, we piled into Marie’s car and headed east to New Market, Tennessee.  None of us had ever been to Highlander, but we all quickly fell in love with the mountainous landscape, the sun on our face, the sweat on our backs, and the tapestry of people all around us.  Never have I seen so many colors and shapes, heard so many sounds and languages, felt so instantly and profoundly connected to people whose lives and stories I didn’t know.

Learning about community teaches an individual to look at the intersections of lives and experiences of people, of other individuals. Through workshops on topics like economics, language justice, and cultural organizing, we learned skills, yes. But we also learned stories and lives.  People shared their hearts with us.  Cast their yolk upon us.  For 48 hours, we were co-journeyers with other people who shared struggles and hardships in the movement for justice for all people.

When we shared meals under the huge tent on the side of the mountain, we were present with the people who are indigenous to that land.  We asked forgiveness.  When we met in creative space and meditation, we connected to omnipresence (and I would say divinity) that exists through all people across time and place, language and creed.  We were making. Creating. Developing. Growing. Changing. Challenging.  When we hiked up from our tent and danced to Latin-American rhythms under a spotlight, we felt empowered by the use of our beautiful bodies.

Our celebration with the Highlander Center on their 80th anniversary, yes, was filled with tangible knowledge, brainstorming, movement building, networking, and skill-creating.  It also became part of our covenant, our living promise to one another to be present in our lives and to do it on purpose.  Our experience at Highlander was more than just a camping trip; it was a reminder that there are others out there who are working for justice and social change.  There are others who care about themselves and want to experience the fullness of life for themselves and help empower and co-create that experience for others.  It was a reminder of the truest and deepest forms of love, solidarity, presence, and journey.


learning at the center for nonprofit management! by kristen dunlap-berg

Center for Nonprofit Management:

On any given day, you will probably hear the BHB women declare how much they love to learn about three times. That said, you can imagine how much we all geeked out when we found out we would each have the opportunity to participate in eight workshops at the Center for Nonprofit Management for FREE! The Center for Nonprofit Management offers training, consultation, and evaluation for the nonprofit community. Their training program includes workshops for the public, networking events and the chance to earn certificates in areas like Nonprofit Leadership, Volunteer Management and Fund Development. Most certificates require around five or six workshops, so the BHB women can use our free workshops to earn a certificate and/or just for the sake of learning-which we all love to do.

On August 28, I participated in a workshop called “Volunteer Management: Part 1”. The workshop was led by Amy Maloney, the Director of Corporate Relations and Special Events at Hands on Nashville and Erika Burnett, the Director of Community Programs at Hands on Nashville.  I chose to take this workshop, because my experiences a volunteer for several nonprofits sparked my interest in what it is like to be on the volunteer management side, and, because, volunteers are vital to the success of all nonprofits. We began the workshop by introducing ourselves. Compared to the usual class size of 12 participants, our class of 19 was HUGE! There were participants from organizations all over Nashville, including the Nashville Red Cross, Room in the Inn and the YWCA. As it turns out, we had a room that consisted of several artists and musicians, a stand up paddle surfer, and approximately 19 people who were completely obsessed with dogs.

The six main points we discussed for the seven hour workshop were Building a Volunteer Program’s Foundation, Volunteer Roles, Risk Management, Recruitment, Orientation, and Training. The workshop was both lecture and discussion based. Workshop leaders shared their experiences and advice, and participants did likewise and shared their questions. One of my favorite parts of the workshop was learning about the different types of learning styles and how they apply to running volunteer trainings and orientations. We also took a quiz to figure out our own learning style. (For the record, I’m an auditory learner.) The ultimate lesson that the leaders wanted us to take away from the workshop as a whole is that the most valuable volunteer management tool is the JOB DESCRIPTION. A volunteer job description that is detailed, current, clear and complete acts a guide for the volunteer, the coordinator of volunteers and other staff members.

We ended the workshop by dividing into groups and assembling snack packs for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee that would go to Tennessee’s economically disadvantaged school-age youth. Each group was given a different set of instructions. One group was given a full flyer that explained the program and detailed instructions on how to assemble the snack packs, and the leaders interacted with them and assisted them often. Two groups were given a plain sheet of paper that did not provide information about the program, but included several steps for making the snack packs. The leaders interacted with those groups but not as much as the first group. The final group was given a sheet of paper that only said, “Make snack packs.” The leaders provided hurried interaction at the beginning and then did not interact with them anymore once they began the activity. This was a fun, creative way to learn about not only how important it is to share the mission of your nonprofit organization with volunteers but how to run a volunteer training session or event that leaves the volunteers feeling secure and happy.

I had a great time at my first Center for Nonprofit Management workshop, and I am so excited to my next workshop in a couple days called, “Help! I Need a New Donor Database!”.  By the way, at final count, I used the words learn, learning or learner five times in this blog, not including the three in this sentence. Imagine what it’s like on a day to day basis in this house! Yay learning!

— Kristen

mamushi nature farm: by gabby blakemore

On Sunday, August 12, we visited Mamushi Nature Farm in Franklin, Tennessee. This farm is lovingly cared for by Freddie Haddox, a friend, teacher, healer, storyteller, mystic. Freddie frequently refers to the land as “the enchanted place where love grows…” Freddie’s passion for the place — its history, energy, possibility — is inspiring. Our encounter with Freddie, Mamushi, + all that inhabit the land brought to life some of the essays that we’ve been reading together: “The Idea of a Local Economy” [] + “In Distrust of Movements” [] by Wendell Berry. Read them! Let us know what you think…
A Reflection by Gabby Blakemore: Going to Freddie’s farm was more than just seeing how he grows healthy and delicious vegetables…hearing his family history is what touched on a deeper level for me. Freddie Haddox began to tell us the history of his family; they were born and worked on the land as slaves. After the plantation owner died, he left a will entailing that at the time of his passing each slave will get land of their own from his estate. All of the land was left to the slaves. After he passed, the plantation owner’s family put up a huge fight over the land…they felt entitled to it and were outraged that he had left it all to his slaves. This fight, taken to court multiple times, proceeded through the “Reconstruction Period.” Eventually, the courts favored the slaves and they inherited the land for generations. Freddie then explained how his grandmother and mother taught him how to farm and how his step-father, the light-weight boxer, took ownership of the 160 beautiful acres that thrive today. Even with all the stories, history and knowledge that Freddie so proudly gave to us, there was still disbelief that clouded my brain and I really had to hold back tears. Growing up as an African American child, there were some things that were–and still are–really hard to figure and find out about my ancestors. Because of the complicated nature of slavery in this country, honestly, some leaves of my family tree are so separated, lost, and confused that I don’t know where to begin. Explaining how your family line, or knowledge of your family background, stops at a certain person can be very hurtful and gives you a sense of not knowing where you’re going because you don’t know where you come from. This thought alone has always made me question and wonder about my vision of how heaven will be. This is my vision of heaven:
Heaven– this soft, loving, and holy place where people are free and happy– a place where I can just go to my heavenly father and say, “God! Since you make everything possible, can I see my family line starting from you to me and my children’s offspring? God, being ultimate being that he is would open the sky like a big Ipad and start from the very beginning. I wouldn’t have to worry about commercials and such things because I would have all of eternity to understand and appreciate where I come from. For me, heaven is a place where I can finally begin to learn about where I come from, my people, my ancestors…the clouds that fog my history because of the legacy of slavery begin to lift…and for once, I can see clearly…
In reflecting back as Freddie spoke and gave so much of his time and energy to the Belle H. Bennett House, the Mamushi Nature Farm as he has named it, gave me a sense of honor and pride. Honor to even be on this loving ground. Honor to get to know and understand how Freddie gives until there is nothing else to give, living a true life that is pleasing to God. Pride that he opened my eyes to the reality that even in a time of uncertain discourse the fight for what is rightfully yours doesn’t die. To never give up on what is meant for you… the land is truly for you… and your soil will be as rich, fruitful, and blessed. Riding back home from the farm, my mind went back to my childhood thoughts of heaven and figuring out family trees… I felt a full-circle moment that there is hope and felt inspired to keep digging to see what I find. I felt that there are no chains against my future because I do have links to my past. I feel blessed to have spent time with Freddie and cannot wait to go back to the farm again. — Gabby

site placements + supervisors

“I commit to the core practice of working for justice with peace. I commit to working at my site placement for 20 hours a week in an effort to eradicate the many different oppressions and injustices that exist in our society. If difficulties arise in my placement, I commit to addressing the challenges with the support of my placement supervisor and program coordinator.” (from the BHB House Commitment Form + Covenant)

Each week, the BHB House community members work in Nashville-area non-profit organizations for 20 hours. At these site placements, they are learning professional and relational skills as they discern their vocations–the work to which they are called with their gifts, talents, passions, heartaches, experiences, dreams, hopes, etc.

Gabby works at the YWCA. Her supervisor is Pamela Sessions. Gabby will explore all that the YWCA offers the community, but her specific task will be working with Girls, Inc. YWCA: The YWCA helps families leave abusive households and start new lives. They provide free GED® education to men and women and mentor middle school girls in some of Nashville’s toughest neighborhoods. The YWCA exists to educate, encourage and break down those barriers that perpetuate racism, violence and hopelessness. Mission:  The YWCA of Nashville & Middle TN is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Vision: It is the vision of the YWCA of Nashville & Middle TN to focus on women and girls who desire to create a better quality of life for themselves and/or their families; to achieve self-sufficiency; and to increase their financial strength. The YWCA will also be a spokesperson for those women who have no voice. Girls, Inc.: Girls Inc. at the YWCA helps middle school girls become “strong, smart, and bold” by engaging them in curriculum and activities focused on violence prevention, pregnancy prevention, substance abuse prevention, economic literacy skills, career planning strategies, and understanding the influence of the media. Programming is offered at 8 Nashville middle schools. Gabby will work to: Inspire girls to be strong, smart and bold through research based Girls, Inc. programs; Empower girls to reach their full potential and understand, value and assert their rights; Provide homework help/ tutoring for the Girls Inc. after school program; Mentor the middle school aged girls through honest answers and stellar example; Solely create and teach at least one session in line with Girls, Inc. curriculum

Abbey works at Room In The Inn. Her supervisor is Mary Wilder. Abbey will develop and teach curricula for adult education courses. Room In The Inn’s Campus for Human Development is a religious non-profit organization. Our agency is a model of public/private partnerships, committed to providing enhanced services to the people who are homeless as well as improving the “system” by which these services are delivered.  Mission: Emphasizing the scriptural ideals of love and community through service to the homeless, the Campus provides faithful people of Nashville an opportunity to respond directly to the broken and disenfranchised among us. This fellowship with the poor is at the heart of our purpose. Core Values: Through the power of spirituality and the practice of love, Room In The Inn’s Campus for Human Development provides hospitality with a respect that offers hope in a community of non-violenceAbbey will work to: Encourage the life-long learning of participants, staff members, and volunteers in order to enhance human development
; Model our core value of hospitality and emphasize personal relationships with our participants; Participate in maintaining security and safety of all community members by reporting concerns to staff members; Ensure the inclusion of all people regardless of religion, race, national origin, or sexual orientation in every aspect of community life

Kristen works at Book ‘Em. Her supervisor is Martha Ann Pilcher. Kristen will work to: Be a reading role model volunteer in a local pre-school and/or elementary school; Help train new reading volunteers; Help update marketing, public relations and fundraising materials; Prepare a marketing and public relations calendar; Assist the executive director with developing and implementing an annual fundraising plan and donor management plan; Attend monthly Board of Directors meeting; Help process books in Library Without Walls; Help with all aspects of the organization as needed. Book ‘Em: Founded in Nashville in 1989, Book’em is a nonprofit 501c3 organization focusing on two core areas: the collection and distribution of books to children and teens in lower-income families who might not otherwise have books of their own; and providing volunteer readers to local preschools and elementary schools. They believe that given an early start, children learn not just to read, but to love reading. What better gift can we give the children of our community than the love of reading? Book’em raises the level of community awareness to the fact that reading is crucial to a child’s early learning. Yearly, Book’em donates an average of 35,000 books to children in Davidson County. Mission: Book’em empowers Nashville’s children by fostering a love of books and reading. Vision: Every child in Nashville is given an equal opportunity to experience the joy of owning and reading books. Purpose: Book’em will help underprivileged children by providing books and by placing volunteer reading role models in targeted schools and organizations throughout Nashville.

Ally works at CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. Her supervisor is Tove Wright. Ally will work to: identify gaps in community awareness of CASA and help structure ways to engage communities in Nashville that might be interested in CASA’s mission. CASA: The U.S. Congress supported the expansion of CASA in 1990 when they passed the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Today, more than 70,000 CASA volunteers are spread throughout 1,000 programs around the country. Because of CASA, more than 2 million children have found their way to a safe home. CASA is the only program of its kind. In the child welfare and family court systems, it was—and is—nothing short of a revolution. Everything is built around one child and one adult advocate for that child. And when a CASA volunteer is there, the child is two times more likely to find a safe, loving permanent home. CASA came to Nashville in 1983, founded jointly by the local chapters of the National Council of Jewish Women and the Junior League of Nashville. These organizations provided the initial funding, and their members formed the first steering committee. Today, the program is located at 601 Woodland Street less than a mile from the Juvenile Justice Center. Our goal is to assure that a permanent home is found for each child and that their chance for a stable, healthy life begins at the earliest stage of the judicial process. With your support, CASA can be the voice of children of abused and neglected in our community. Mission: CASA provides trained community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of children who come to the attention of Juvenile Court primarily as a result of abuse and neglect.

a word on orientation! by abbey jenkins

Greeted with a banner taped to the side of our house that read, “Welcome Belle H. Bennett House Women,” our ten-month journey was finally standing right before us. With the help of Marie Campbell, the Director of Intentional Communities + Volunteers on the Scarritt-Bennett campus, and numerous volunteers from Hands On Nashville, our house was transferred from a storage area to a home in just one short day. Presented with two days to ourselves to do as we pleased before orientation weekend, we found ourselves sitting around this unique table in our front room – sharing stories, gossiping, laughing, and predicting what our ten months on Scarritt-Bennett’s campus would be like.
Orientation began on Friday, August 3. By Friday afternoon, we  were hopeful with adventure. Quickly wrapped up in an Enneagram workshop with Dr. Ben Curtis from Belmont University, we discovered the kinds of personalities that we would be dealing with for the next ten months. (I’m a seven – childlike, playful, full of energy, this often comes back to bite me in the butt when I exhaust myself.) We met Steve Gateley, Suha Alsyoufi. Chandra Allen, and Becky Waldrop. They told us all about the Research Library, Women’s Table, Diversity in Dialogue, and the history of SBC.
After learning about the past and present of the Scarritt-Bennett Center, we sat around the table to discuss emotional reactions to different crises occurring in the world.
“In a world raging with war, poverty, injustice, oppression, and impending ecocide, everyday we are faced with crisis. However overwhelmed we might feel in the face of these realities, it is possible for us to consider these moments as moments for possibility—times where we might creatively engageourselves, others, and the world with our gifts, strengths, passions, and talents.” (from our worksheet) 
Through this exercise, we learned more about how to encounter suffering and tragedy with hope and reflective intention for change! That following morning we were grounded again when we participated in a yoga session with Vanderbilt Divinity School student and yoga instructor, Emily Burg.
Whisked away again for more introductions, we met with Austin Sauerbrei and Judi Hoffman with the FreeStore and Edgehill United Methodist Church. The Free Store is a place of mutual sharing, centered on the exchange of donated, new or pre-used goods among neighbors. The Free Store is something everyone can participate in – Edgehill neighbors, members of Edgehill United Methodist Church (UMC), and volunteers from the wider Nashville community. In addition to providing a needed service, it helps deepen relationships with and among Edgehill neighbors.
Rather than viewing this service as a “handout,” the people at the FreeStore believe that everyone has something to contribute, whether through volunteering, receiving goods, donating goods, contributing financially, or in other ways. The FreeStore works from the following core values:

  • An Economy of Divine Abundance – we live in a world with more than enough physical resources for everyone to live well; the problem is unequal distribution. Sharing among neighbors in the impoverished Edgehill neighborhood helps to address this problem.
  • Hospitality – the store is designed to be a welcoming place where the coffee pot is always on; a place to engage with each other; an open place where people feel comfortable.
  • Mutual Relationships – designed not as a social service or charity, but as a place where members of the community can come together, build relationships and support one another.
[For more information, contact the FreeStore Coordinator – Austin Sauerbrei at
(Phone: 615-254-7628
 Fax: 615-866-9956.).] 
With Pastor Judi, we explored “radical hospitality.” Hospitality is the radical practice of graciously welcoming one another, especially the stranger, as God has welcomed us. She helped us think about how we might embrace this sacred lifestyle in a culture marked by fear and distrust, becoming skilled in the risky practice of holy hospitality.


• Crossing thresholds

• Reexamining boundaries

• Minds open to new ideas

• Welcoming and honoring differences

• National hospitality
to refugees, strangers and immigrants

• A place for all in God’s world

• Meeting the divine in each child of God

More introductions again followed when we all met our mentors. It was quite literally a scene from a family reunion in the Edgehill Café. Any outsider would have thought that we had known each other for ages.
That day, our final introduction was to Kelley Francis Fenelon, the Executive Director of the Nashville Mobile Market. She helped us begin to think about ours lives as stories. We learned about the Marshall Ganz model of public narrative as a tool and resource for community organizing and relationship building.

The exercise with Kelley was the perfect segue into the creation of our community covenant which began Saturday night. Sitting, once again, around this fantastic circular table, we each voiced our opinions and concerns about a host of questions. We spent nearly fifteen hours working on the covenant together!
On Sunday afternoon, we enjoyed a lunch made by SBC’s Chef Jennifer with our site placement supervisors and and Trudy Stringer, a member of the advisory board for the Belle H. Bennett House. After lunch, we shared an incomplete version of our covenant to them so that they could have an idea of what kind of practices were would be engaging as a community. 

Marie gave us the opportunity to meet as many people as we could possibly fit in one weekend – and it was perfect. We have made so many connections that will help us along our journey. Discussing about our weekend on Sunday night, we noted these connections and we are grateful for them, inspired by them. We had been granted just a few hours to breathe before Monday morning and our first day at our internships would begin.
–Abbey Jenkins
We hope to live into our life in Nashville with the following core practices:
working for justice with peace
building community with hospitality
caring for self and other through spiritual awareness and exploration
engaging simple, sustainable living

We hope to empower one another to live well in the world in our work, play, and discernment!

We hope to encounter you on our journey! Come visit us at the BHB House 🙂

Ally, Abbey, Marie, Bella (Marie’s pup), Gabby, Kristen

august 1: move-in day volunteers!

dear Hands On Nashville & volunteers,

thank you!!!! we couldn’t have moved into the BHB House so gracefully without you!

we moved heavy…heavy…furniture (lots of it!), cleaned, arranged, rearranged, moved more furniture,

moved mattresses, recycled lots of cardboard, moved boxes of books, organized…

and we had fun doing it! all of us at the Scarritt-Bennett Center are so grateful for all of you!


BHB House







SIGN UP to volunteer! August 1!

SIGN UP to be part of the move-in team on August 1! We need help moving the BHB women into the BHB House!

To sign up, go to Hands On Nashville and search for us!

DETAILS: On August 1, 2012, 11 young women will be moving to the Scarritt-Bennett Center to live in intentional community and explore the dynamics of faith and social change. 4 women will be part of the Belle H. Bennett House. 7 women will be students at Vanderbilt Divinity School and part of a volunteer/intentional community program at Scarritt-Bennett Center. We need your help moving these ladies into the houses at SBC! The more help we have, the easier and faster we’ll be able to move everyone in. Come help us move!

There are 5 shifts available: 8:30-10:30 am; 10:30-12:30 pm; 1:30-3:30 pm; 3:30-5:30 pm; 5:30-7:30 pm. Sign up for as many time slots as you’d like!