Meeting Real Needs & Creating Awareness
Based on an Interview with Gregg Garner,
Written by Sara Davis
Q: Who Do You Serve?
A: Our priority in community service is to serve the elderly, the disabled, single mothers, and low-income families. Inclusive of the low-income demographic is the refugee population of the area. Nashville in particular has been labeled the "new Ellis Island," and as such it has become home to many who require help in acclimating to a new culture and environment.
Q: What Services Do We Offer?
A: G.O.D. Int’l offers a variety of services to several demographics, from labor for construction projects and caring for the mentally and physically disabled, to counseling immigrants in societal integration and hosting social gatherings for low-income families such as movie nights, sports tournaments, summer camps and literacy programs.
In addition to our community outreach, the headquarters of G.O.D. Int’l hosts a local arts venue “The Arts at Center Street”, where we seek to cultivate cultural, musical, and theatrical expression that takes moral positions regarding the relevant conversations for our time. Our facilities have been the home of the Tennessee Midwives Association’s quarterly meetings, and more recently their statewide annual conference. Our athletic field, basketball courts and playground are open to the Hopewell neighborhood at large and frequented by those who live nearby, including a youth sports league to be launched this spring.
Q: Where Have You Performed these Services?
A: Though G.O.D. Int’l has headquartered in Nashville since 2001, it has facilitated community service in Southern California, Daytona Beach, FL, Morristown, TN and the tri-cities of Harlem County in KY to name a few locations over the years. Through its youth community service program, Students Living a Mission, G.O.D. Int’l has helped churches and other organizations to facilitate community service in Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Georgia.
Specific to the Nashville location, G.O.D. Int’l serves in Antioch, Old Hickory, downtown Nashville and Nolensville Pike. Due to its position as a nonprofit organization that works in developing countries, G.O.D. Int’l members and volunteers have developed linguistic and cultural capacities that benefit the refugee communities of Nashville as well.
Q: Who Can Be Involved in Community Service with G.O.D. Int’l?
A: As a community service organization, G.O.D. Int’l welcomes any and all volunteers who would like to give of their time. Participation varies depending on the skills of the volunteers and their areas of interest. Peak volunteer times are summers and holidays. Throughout the year, we regularly facilitate over 1,000 short-term volunteers.
Q: Who Is Regularly involved in Community Service?
A: Students at the Institute for G.O.D. Int’l are required to volunteer for a minimum of 50 hours per semester, though most students at the institute voluntarily exceed this quota exponentially. Everyone who is affiliated with G.O.D. either as a member or volunteer is involved in community service efforts, whether it be in the administrative realm, serving on the field in the regions of the developing world where we focus our efforts, ministering to participants of SLAM (Students Living A Mission), working through our childbirth education program as a labor support doula, or advocating on behalf of children in the state court system as a CASA representative. These are just some of the many areas of service performed by volunteers at G.O.D. Int’l.
Q: What is Your Method for Enacting Community Service?
A: Though our methodology does vary, an important overarching term is “empowerment”. Because we seek to empower, our methods must be duplicable and transferable. Empowering people is a difficult task, requiring initiative and hard work. The reward is minor compared to what people often hope for when they invest their time. Faith is required to participate in something like this, as one will have to identify the smaller things as those things that are significant, in other words, the small things “count”. The larger the campaign, the harder it is to duplicate. The smaller the campaign, the more concentrated it will be, and the more duplicable as well as transferable. Though everyone likes a big endeavor, this is not always the best technique for empowerment. Empowerment takes time, but we believe it's worth it.
Q: Regarding community service, what are your main objectives?
A: The goal of community service with G.O.D. Int’l is twofold: first, to meet real needs in the greater Nashville area. This is specific to the needs that are not currently being met by other organizations. In particular our organization extends human resources, necessitating social skills requiring cross-cultural communication and understanding.
Second, we seek to create awareness among volunteers of the needs that exist in their own community. Such awareness that begins on a small scale, we hope, will transfer into a global consciousness.
Q: What Makes Your Community Service Different than Other Organizations?
A: We have a responsibility to offer dignified service. For example, we do not go into a facility for the elderly and disabled just to clean their living spaces, but we take a particular approach. There is a social aspect to our service that many may find burdensome. Perhaps they would prefer to go in to accomplish a certain task – but these people do not just need landscapers and house maids, they need human connections. This major emphasis tends to slow things down. Those who volunteer with G.O.D. Int’l must prepare to develop good social skills, and recognize the need for the human connection, even at the expense of what is typically considered productivity.
Because we are an organization that focuses on the human resource, we have a vast knowledge of the social service network in Nashville. We are not about reinventing the wheel, and sometimes we refer those who have needs our organization is not best equipped to meet, to other organizations who are.
Lastly, we are committed to seeing a service project completed to the end. Though an individual may volunteer for a short period of time, he or she may be certain that we will follow up. Good community service requires a responsibility to the completion of an event or a service that will be of ultimate and lasting benefit to others – this is a standard we hold ourselves to, and it is something our volunteers can depend on though they may play a short role in the long-term process.