Tennessee’s state nickname is the “Volunteer State” for good reason; neighbor helping neighbor comes naturally within these borders. Get in on the positive impact by visiting these places that give back to nonprofits, assist those who have experienced or are currently experiencing hard times and more. Here are just a few places where you can help make a difference.
Weed wrangles, volunteer hikes and forest trail building just a few volunteering activities you can sign up for to help beautify Tennessee State Parks. Help clear out invasive plants, pitch in with trail repair and maintenance, and do a variety of projects as needed. Serve for a few hours and then hit the trails to catch the sunset or cast a line, knowing you did your part in keeping the state’s scenic beauty healthy and clean.
The newly-opened Crosstown Concourse in Memphis is a mixed use building of furnished apartments for overnight and short-term stay options, art, shopping and food. Make a positive impact by getting a meal at the Global Cafe, an international food hall that hosts three immigrant/refugee food entrepreneurs. You’ll find an eclectic mix of dishes by chefs from Sudan, Syria and Venezuela while employees hail from Switzerland, Syria, Mexico, Somalia, Sudan and Venezuela. It’s a great way to experience different cultures and tastes without having to book a plane ticket.
Travel to the charming town of Paris, Tennessee not only to see the replica Eiffel Tower, but make a pit stop at Sweet Jordan’s, a bakery filled with homemade chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, cakes, breakfast items, coffee and even a Play Park for young children to explore while parents relax. The shop is owned by Jordan, an individual with Downs Syndrome. He employs individuals with disabilities to show everyone has something to contribute to the community with the message that “sweetness” comes in all forms.
Crunch into a taco for a good cause at Tacos 4 Life in Jackson. For every meal sold in the restaurant, Tacos 4 Life donates funds to fund a meal through Feed My Starving Children. You can nosh on fajita chicken, spicy chorizo, blackened mahi-mahi, seared tofu and slow-roasted carnitas tacos topped with avocado, lettuce, salsa, pico de gallo and more, knowing your dollars are going to a good cause. You can also order quesadillas, Mexican cobb salads topped with roasted corn, black beans, avocado, pico de gallo, cheddar-jack cheese and house-made Southwest ranch dressing, and the Tropical Bowl - cilantro pesto rice with mango, pico de gallo, pineapple, jalapenos, pumpkin seeds and dressing.
Step into Thistle Farms in Nashville for candles, bath and beauty products, home goods and more all made by women survivors of addiction, trafficking and prostitution. Each purchase goes toward Thistle Farms being able to employ even more women which gives each individual a second chance at life. So far, Thistle Farms has been able to give more than 9,000 nights of safe housing for women, 825 hours of counseling, 664 medical appointments, $1.5 million in income for women survivors and support 1,200 female artisans through fair wage via their global partnerships.
Help change lives by booking a stay at The Russell when you visit Nashville. Housed in a circa 1904 historic church, The Russell has 23 rooms decked out with original stained glass windows, exposed brick walls, and pews converted as headboards. You can sleep soundly knowing a percentage of each night’s stay goes to local nonprofits that help those experiencing homelessness in Nashville The average weekend stay provides either 16 nights in a bed, 100 free showers or 30 free meals.
Just Love Coffee in Murfreesboro is a socially-conscious business that gave about $100,000 back to the community in its first year. Today, a portion of all profits goes to help local organizations, so you can feel good knowing your coffee purchase is impacting the community for good. They also have a fundraising program where individuals can create a free account to raise money via coffee orders for a good cause. They handle orders, fulfillment and shipping. Head to Just Love for crafted coffee and seriously good eats in Nashville, Brentwood, Spring Hill, Nolensville and Murfreesboro.
While in Knoxville, visit the original location of Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop serving up family recipes each day. Salivate and try to choose from a variety of pies like buttermilk pies, chocolate cream, Granny’s Apple, peanut butter cream, key lime and more. Gluten-friendly options are available as well. A sweet addition is Buttermilk Sky’s Pie It Forward program where a portion of proceeds from the sale of one of their pies is donated to a local community.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg is visited by millions a year. Help preserve and protect the natural, beautiful resources and its inhabitants by signing up for a Smokies Service Day. Dedicate a few hours helping with vegetation management, trail maintenance, campground cleanup, historic preservation and more. Service activities are for youth and adults and usually run 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Participants are invited to stay for the enrichment programs like a hike or ranger-led program offered noon to 4 p.m. Smokies Service Days are a way for visitors who are in the area for a short stay, as well as students and groups seeking to fulfill community service requirements while making new friends and exploring the national park.
You'll love the handmade leather purses, clothing and accessories at Project Free 2 Fly in Cleveland, Tennessee. And, the best part: all proceeds go to the women behind the clothing. Project Free 2 Fly works with local rehabilitation programs to identify women who are ready to make the move from recovery to a sustainable life. They teach the women to sew and, in turn, give them a space to sell their handmade products. Each participant is also paired with a mentor. Upon exiting the program, women have the foundations and tools needed for long-term success and sustainability in the workforce and in their communities. Products are also available online.