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Starting young: Nashville’s youth volunteer for a variety of causes

Aug 04 2017
Posted by: Staff
Starting young: Nashville’s youth volunteer for a variety of causes

By: Ashley Heeney

For some Nashville area students, going back to school means looking forward to giving back to the community.

Childhood was not too young to start for Annabeth Shafer, who is 11 and going into 6th grade at Bellevue Middle School. During the summer, she volunteers at The Meadows Senior Living Communities and helps with their bingo games. 

“She was begging to volunteer somewhere, but, often, places have age requirements,” said Annabeth’s mother, Tracie Shafer. “Our church youth group has caroled at The Meadows every Christmas for the last seven or eight years. So I decided to email the activities director to see if there was any way possible they would let her volunteer.”


Annabeth Shafer 

“Ms. Becky at The Meadows was so helpful and enthusiastic about finding a volunteer role for Annabeth,” Tracie added.

The last two summers, Annabeth has helped with bingo and will sometimes sit with a resident who needs help playing the game, or she will pass out candy treats to the winners. 

“She loves being with the elderly,” Tracie said. “She is naturally drawn to the older neighbors in our community. This experience has made her start thinking about geriatrics as a career path. She also wants to be a vet. So, she has been thinking of ways to combine her love for animals and her love for the elderly. One idea she had is, if she chooses to be a geriatrician, having an animal encounters program for her patients.”

This year, Annabeth plans to continue with a project she started in 5th grade to try to make a difference at her school. “It's called No Difference, and it's a project she came up with as a class assignment that teachers helped her implement,” Tracie said. “She wanted special-needs children, during lunch, to have other children sit with them so they don't feel left out or ‘different’ from the other kids.”

(Cover photo: Alexa Honigsblum with fellow NFTY/Jewish Youth Group Members.)

For Hillwood High sophomore Alexa Honigsblum, the goal has been to help Nashville’s homeless population. She said she was the overall planner and leader of what she called a caravan, part of “Mity,” the youth group in her temple’s congregation. Honigsblum is the social action vice president of The Reform Jewish Youth Movement. 

She said the caravan, made up of her fellow youths, put together bags of food and personal care items, then distributed them around Nashville by car. “It was challenging to get members of the synagogue to donate,” Honigsblum said. “It was rewarding knowing that (with our help) people were able to go sit down and eat a snack.” 

Through her school her freshman year, Honigsblum also put together a drive for a local animal shelter and with the help of school mates collected nearly 400 items to donate.


William Antony and Relay for Life volunteers.

This year, incoming Father Ryan High School senior William Antony intends to continue several volunteer projects, such as Relay for Life and Saint Mary Villa Assisted Living Facilities.

“Relay for Life is a massive, student-led fundraiser whose proceeds go to the American Cancer Society, furthering cancer research and caring for current cancer patients. Teams walk laps around the Father Ryan track to raise money from sponsors and pledges from noon to midnight,” Antony said. 

“My role is a member of the activities subcommittee, which plans all of the activities for the Relay, such as games on the sidelines, bouncy castles on the football field and concerts throughout the day.”

Antony said he became involved when he heard an announcement over the school intercom one day during his junior year. He then decided to apply to serve on the committee.  

“Last year, I worked on the Mission Delivery subcommittee, which worked to update the committee as a whole on our fundraising status and educate the group on the cause for which we were raising money,” Antony said. “My subcommittee also had the duty of creating a promotional video, which I would say was a challenging process. Collecting all of the photos of the whole committee working on our Relay was a very long process but very rewarding when I saw the smiles on everyone's faces.”  


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