On a typical Tuesday our South Hall kitchen is filled with a steady group of diverse and dedicated volunteers, and you can’t escape the good vibes. A 3-year veteran, Linda, tells me that it’s the music that Meals Coordinator Katie always plays that gets everyone grooving. Very easy to agree with after hearing the funk of Ray Charles come through the radio. I do feel our cherry sorting production was increased with the help of the background music, not to mention it led to the first common ground and opening to discuss the focus of this blog: friendship.
Although Linda suggests that the music was meant to appease some of the older volunteers (Psshh, she was in tow with her teenage grandson that day, back for his second visit.), it really is just another tool in nurturing community and friendship. With so much food to prep, it would be easy to get too involved with the work and miss the opportunity to build relationships, but that never seems to be the case around here.
I asked my delightful cherry sorting partner, Meera (very cool lady), why she keeps coming back, and she told me that, for her, she just wants to help and volunteer her time, simple as that. She went on to say that “while we are here, is when you see something special.”
Hearing the story of how she began meeting and building friendships with other volunteers, you can see that there is much more going on here than just sorting cherries. Meera is apparently an amazing cook and master of spice! As we are having this conversation, a dedicated volunteer cook Mary comes by to try out a few of the Rainer cherries on the table.
I soon find out that Meera and Mary have been volunteering together for nearly five years! These ladies, along with Linda and their friends Marilyn and Cheri, all met in the TNFP kitchen, and through their service to the organization, they’ve built lasting friendships that follow them outside our kitchens. It is amazing to see the friendships that have been cultivated over these cutting boards and mixing bowls.
These ladies and their friendship really shows the mission of The Nashville Food Project in action, and shows how we are fulfilling our mission to cultivate community. Each time I volunteer with TNFP, I am amazed at how much of the real work of the organization happens just by being in the space surrounded by these amazing volunteers.
If you want to help us cultivate community, just show up, open-up, give a hand, and listen to the music. Why we are here is great, but what happens while we are here is the magic.