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Volunteer project shows a different kind of teamwork

March 12, 2018 Jonathan Houghton

The Bradford Group’s offices are located in East Nashville, an area of town that has been swiftly gentrifying over the past decade or so. Looking out the windows of our building, we can see a newly built, modern condo located just a few feet away from an old 24-hour convenience store that once had bars on its windows.

From left, Claire Long, Jeff Bradford, Julia Motis, Damon Maida, Melinda LaFollette, Amy Stevens, Gina Gallup and Jonathan Houghton.

As we cheer on East Nashville’s continued resurgence, we can’t help but notice that some of its longtime residents are being left behind. That’s why our entire staff took a midday field trip for a couple of hours on a recent Friday to volunteer with a neighbor of ours — the parish center of Holy Name Catholic Church, located almost directly across the street from our offices. 

Once a month, Holy Name pairs with Catholic Charities of Tennessee to host a food distribution event for neighborhood residents. Any person in need can stop by and receive an assortment of donated foods — bread, juices, fruits and vegetables, pastries, coffee and much more. The foods were donated by individuals and businesses from across Nashville, and there was, happily, plenty to go around.

After unboxing the foods and getting them organized, some of our Bradford Group crew set up at the various food stations, while others helped the guests push their carts through the line. I did the latter job, which meant that I got a few bonus minutes to interact with the guests as I helped them bag their food and take it out to their cars.

Two memories stand out: One was of a couple who gave their friend a ride to the food distribution in their small car. Fitting three people in this car was enough of a squeeze; fitting three people plus their bags of food meant that practically every square inch of the car needed to be fully utilized. After some rearranging and difficulty pushing to close the doors, we were able to get everybody situated for what was probably an uncomfortable – but hopefully short – ride.

From left, Melinda LaFollette, Jonathan Houghton and Damon Maida.

The other memory is of a grandmother there with her grandson, who was still dressed up in his school uniform. After I helped load her food into her car, she insisted on thanking me with a hug. “I’m a hugger,” she said.

Looking around the parish center, I saw that my small interactions were in no way unique. All of my coworkers were having meaningful moments with the guests. It’s good to be reminded that regardless of our circumstances, people are just people. 

One thing I’ve realized about the Bradford Group is that when we get out of the office for activities like this, the same qualities that help us work together effectively — our personalities and our work ethic — continue to shine through. We’re a good team regardless of our surroundings. It’s always nice to take a break from the workday, but even more so when we get to make a small contribution to our neighborhood.

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