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'The spirit of Nashville': Relief, donations, volunteers continue in weeks after bombing

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 1/9/2021 Rachel Wegner, Nashville Tennessean
a person standing in front of a store: General Manager Laura Broll talks to her colleague Jarrett Utley with Urban League, helping assemble boxes of food and resources to help those affected by the Nashville bombing at Community Resource Center in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. © Stephanie Amador / The Tennessean General Manager Laura Broll talks to her colleague Jarrett Utley with Urban League, helping assemble boxes of food and resources to help those affected by the Nashville bombing at Community Resource Center in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

As the news about a downtown bombing spread across Nashville and the nation on Christmas Day, nonprofit and aid workers in the region began texting and calling each other to mobilize. 

The Salvation Army was in the area within hours, setting up tents and providing supplies and housing resources for those suddenly displaced by the blast.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, Hands On Nashville and the Community Resource Center quickly coordinated efforts for food, housing, essentials and volunteers in the hours and days that followed.

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The Red Cross set up a temporary site for the nearly 1,600 people affected, which included business owners, residents and guests staying in the area. The United Way of Greater Nashville partnered with Metro Nashville leaders to mobilize fundraising as people around the city, nation and world looked for ways to help a city already tested by a difficult year.

"Even in a year where Nashvillians have taken hit after hit — when people are themselves hurting and tired — they are still willing to help out however they can," said Lindsey Turner, director of communications at Hands On Nashville. "That’s the spirit of Nashville: to keep helping each other no matter what."

MOBILIZING: Christmas bombing and the looming recovery put Nashville's resilience to the test

Nashville's Office of Emergency Management has a plan that has been in place since 1999 to work with nonprofits in the area when disaster strikes, spokesperson Joseph Pleasant said. It coordinates with nonprofit partners for human services, food, donations, volunteers and recovery. 

It's a plan that has been especially vital in recent months after deadly tornadoes struck the region and the coronavirus pandemic upended everything from food security to housing for residents. 

But the response to the bombing has been a different experience, according to Lori Shinton, who is the president and CEO for Hands On Nashville. 

This time, instead of facing a natural disaster or a pandemic, relief workers and victims are trying to make sense of an entirely different kind of tragedy. As they worked to mobilize, Shinton said she and others were struggling to understand with what had happened and why.

"I think our brains take a while to figure out how we categorize this, how we process it, internalize it and move forward," she said. 

Supplies, volunteers, donations pour in

So far, the Community Resource Center said it has brought in close to $500,000 between monetary donations and supplies in the wake of the bombing. 

Hands On Nashville had volunteers fill over 200 slots to help with recovery and support efforts, in coordination with the CRC and OEM. Volunteers helped with everything from collecting and sorting donated items to distributing tarps, boards and other supplies for clean-up efforts. 

Second Harvest Food Bank said it sent 1,500 food boxes to the CRC, which in turn distributed them to those affected by the bombing. The CRC hosted two drive-thru events to deliver the food boxes, household essentials and information on long-term financial and mental health support for hundreds of households. 

The Salvation Army in Nashville said 407 households received over $36,000 in direct assistance between Christmas and New Year's Day, including gift cards and Uber credits to help with basic, immediate needs. 

'We don't want people to give up'

Sitting inside the CRC's quiet but teeming warehouse just east of downtown on Wednesday, Board President Maria Amado said she's amazed at how many local businesses, organizations, nonprofits and residents have come together to help. She said they are working on short-term relief while preparing for the long haul of support and recovery, as well.

"We're going to be there for these residents and business owners and their employees until they're settled," she said. "Our community is going to prop us all up. There's a reason that the first word in our name is 'community." 

On Dec. 29, the United Way of Greater Nashville came alongside Metro Nashville to launch the Restore the Dream Fund. United Way will take in the donations and filter them out to regional and local organizations helping those affected by the bombing. 

While the Red Cross and Salvation Army are still available to receive donations and provide support as needed, both said they are shifting the ongoing response to local organizations.

"We're Nashville strong and we have each other's back. We are here to support one another," said Nancy Keil, President and CEO for Second Harvest. "We don't want people to give up." 

How to find or give help

There are several ways to help as Nashville faces a long road of recovery from the bombing. Here are just a few. 

Hands On Nashville

Information on volunteer opportunities, donations and assistance can be found at hon.org.

Community Resource Center

Information how to give toward urgent needs, purchase items off an Amazon wish list or support the long-term efforts of the CRC can be found at crcnashville.org.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee

Information on how to receive food or how to donate money, food or time can be found at secondharvestmidtn.org.

United Way of Greater Nashville

Donations can be made to the Restore the Dream Fund by texting "RESTORE 20" to 41444 or by visiting unitedwaygreaternashville.org. Those affected by the bombing who need assistance can call 211 or visit 211.org.

Find reporter Rachel Wegner at rawegner@tennessean.com or on Twitter @rachelannwegner.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: 'The spirit of Nashville': Relief, donations, volunteers continue in weeks after bombing

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