And so it begins. We couldn’t begin a world tour of service projects without starting right here at home and supporting one of the amazing nonprofits serving this cooperative, innovative and civic-minded community we call Chattanooga.
Our first volunteer project of this journey focused on an organization close to my heart (no pun intended). The Hart Gallery of Tennessee is an organization focused on giving inspiration, income and a creative outlet to the hidden local artisans living in poverty or on the streets. This nonprofit organization was founded in 2010 by Ellen Heavilon, an amazing woman driven to give her fellow man a hand up through the visual arts. It began when she walked into Chattanooga’s Community Kitchen with a bin full of paints, brushes and paper. Four years later it’s grown into a collaborative organization changing the lives of its artists and the people who support its work. Ellen is an example of what we are all capable of doing – seeing an opportunity to help and then taking action to make that vision a reality.
Today the Hart Gallery provides studio space, supplies, regular workshops and gallery exposure so that local non-traditional artists have an opportunity to create and sell their work. The result is incredible and goes beyond the artwork. The income these artists earn helps qualify them for housing and other social services, and the creative process gives them a positive outlet for handling life’s emotional and psychological struggles.
For our day of service our family helped prep the gallery’s community gardens for spring planting. In addition to its artistic programs, the organization also responds to the needs of the local community. The boxed gardens provide accessible fresh produce and add beauty to the neighborhood. While we were turning soil, pulling weeds and planting vegetables in the gardens, Tony and Robert, two of the gallery’s many craftsmen, were busy making memorial bricks. These stones are placed in the garden to honor the memory of local homeless citizens who have passed away.
Our time at the Hart Gallery was the perfect way to launch our goal of 100 service projects. It connected our life in Chattanooga to this new worldwide adventure and paid tribute to an organization with an inspired vision. Thank you to Ellen, Tony, Robert and the other Hart Gallery artisans for a great day!
One down. Ninety-nine to go.