Defining Service

Defining Service

Service—sometimes it refers to a military commitment. Other times it describes the action of helping others. For at least one Navy Chief, it means both.

Chief Information Systems Technician Heather Lane had a smile that remained constant for hours as she chopped peppers and cucumbers, filling the large clear containers with vegetables for the next meal at Nashville Rescue Mission.

She wasn’t the only one smiling either. Nine other sailors from Navy Recruiting District Nashville joined her as they helped prepare a meal for the homeless. One group was filling food trays with sandwiches while another was emptying cans of corn. And the whole group was there to volunteer and serve in large part because of Heather.

“I came from a past where the only reason we had Christmas was because people would show up at our door with gifts,” said Heather. “Now I’m in a place where I can give back, and it feels good to help others.”

For Heather, volunteering has become a passion over the course of nearly 20 years in naval service. The more she served, the more her motivations matured, driving the intensity of her efforts.

“Being in the service sometimes means moving to new cities,” said Heather. “With each move, I would enroll my kids in school, then I would go find a place to volunteer. It was what made me feel at home in my new home.”

Heather says she started giving back because of having received so much during her childhood. Then it became about serving for her career. And now it’s about giving glory to God through serving others. “Serving is contagious—seeing a smile on someone’s face and knowing I helped put it there—it’s an awesome feeling,” she said.

When she says contagious, she practices what she preaches. Once Heather understood the impact her time and effort could produce, she sought out ways to multiply her enthusiasm by recruiting others to join her. It has led

her on many group projects at previous naval commands and most recently to Nashville Rescue Mission.

“I enjoy serving at the Mission,” said Heather. “It’s rewarding to know we are helping those in need, but it is also a blessing to connect with other people who volunteer and work there. The fellowship of a community working together to help the homeless is something special.”

Each time Heather signed up with the expectation of recruiting others, she found the line of volunteers form quickly behind her. As she saw the group of people standing beside her, she was overwhelmed and inspired.

“There are times I will tear up because I know I am making a difference. Sometimes people believe that one person can’t make a difference, but I know one person can. If everybody believed that, this world would be a much better place,” she said.

In less than a year, Heather will retire from the Navy. When she leaves she will have completed in excess of 6,000 volunteer hours, received four Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals, and be eligible for the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for volunteer service. Heather counts the experience of service far more worthy than the medal itself, though she does appreciate the recognition as a reminder of what she was able to do in addition to an honorable military career.

“When I received awards for my job, it was mostly because of something I had to do. The Volunteer Service Medal isn’t something I went on a path to get. It was something people started recommending me for. At first I didn’t necessarily want it because I didn’t need to be recognized for something I already love to do. But then I realized how much it meant that my leadership recognized me for something beyond the regular requirements of my job,” she said. “And it gives me the opportunity to inspire others to volunteer to serve.”

As Heather looks to her service career ending with the Navy—in her community, that career of serving seems only to be the beginning. “We’ve decided to make Nashville our home,” said Heather. “I can’t wait to spend more time serving others, especially at Nashville Rescue Mission, where I feel very much at home.”

If you’d like to join Heather and others in the community who enjoy serving those in need, visit this link.

Mission In My Words—Allee-Sutton Hethcoat

Mission In My Words—Allee-Sutton Hethcoat

It was 1996 and I was attending school at Grassland Elementary. Tornadoes hit our area pretty hard. Burdened with the desire to help those in need, I started a canned food drive. I wanted to help and that was one way I knew how.

Volunteering is something my parents deeply value, and I’m grateful they have instilled that desire in me from an early age. My dad is a Hospitality Minister, so between church and school there were lots of opportunities to give back. As a family we worked on a Habitat for Humanity house. Our church hosted Room In The Inn. We were always looking for opportunities to serve.

I firmly believe where it says in Luke, Chapter 12, verse 48 that “to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” I am so blessed. I feel a responsibility to help others.

After being crowned Miss Tennessee USA, one of my first appearances was at the Tracy Lawrence Turkey Fry at the Mission. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to go to the Mission and learn more about their incredible programs and facilities.

After that experience, I knew I wanted to get more involved. I have learned so much. For anyone experiencing adversity in his or her life, the Mission has an open door. Not only do they help with food, shelter, clothing … they also teach job skills, accountability, financial planning … all with an emphasis on putting Christ first.

Recently, the Mission hosted their annual Hearts of Hope luncheon to honor the women who are temporarily staying at the Mission. With the help of Fabrik, one of my generous sponsors, we hosted a clothing drive and filled at least two cars full of beautiful new clothes for the ladies to shop from during the week of pampering leading up to the event.

As Miss Tennessee USA, I am not required to have a designated charity. Which means I can support whatever organizations mean the most to me. Nashville Rescue Mission means a lot to me, and I consider it an honor and a blessing to be a part of their family. If you have never visited the Mission—I urge you to take a tour, or go serve a meal. If you are in a position to help, you should. Whether that’s donating your time, services, funding … someone there desperately needs your help. It doesn’t take a lot. Every little bit matters.

You will be blessed beyond what you can bless others. That is a guaranteed promise. I hope to see you there.

Allee-Sutton Hethcoat, Miss Tennessee USA 2017, is a 25-year-old law student, actress, and model.

The Franklin native and Belmont University alumna recently starred in the faith-based film “Remember the Goal.” She’s in her final year of law school and looks forward to representing Tennessee at the Miss USA 2017 pageant.

Made In His Image

Made In His Image

As an only child, Norman didn’t have many friends. “I didn’t understand how to make friends,” recalled Norman. “I was home alone a lot. I would walk out the front door and invite people into our house. If they smoked, I’d smoke. If they drank, I would drink.” One day, some of these “friends” robbed his house while he and his mom were shopping. They left a trail of stolen items leading back to their apartment.

“I was a scrawny kid, knocking on the door of some men who were fresh out of the penitentiary, asking for our stuff back,” said Norman. “They beat me up, and I spent the next three months in the hospital on a respirator.”

Concerned for his safety, Norman’s mom sent him to live with his aunt. When that didn’t work out, he stayed with his grandmother, and then his mom’s ex-husband until he was caught stealing $5,000 worth of candy from his school. At 16, Norman had the option of juvenile hall or Job Corp. At Job Corp Norman found himself in the culinary arts program.

After completing his culinary program, Norman moved to Washington with his girlfriend whose aunt ran a restaurant, and hired him to cook. After a year, he accepted a job at the Boondocks, a restaurant whose clients included Bill Gates, Robert Plant, and Kurt Cobain. Norman learned from some of the greatest chefs and developed a reputation for preparing “made to order” Alfredo sauce. He had just turned 24—and he was a father of two.

“I was still smoking weed and drinking alcohol,” said Norman. “But that changed following complications from surgery when I needed pain pills. I developed an addiction to them unlike anything I had ever experienced.” That addiction took Norman down a dark path that led him to prison. He received four years for assault with a deadly weapon after using a beer bottle to defend himself in a fight.

“I thought I would spend the rest of my life in prison,” said Norman. “I fought a lot and spent 2 ½ years in isolation. Sometimes I would talk through the vent to the person above me. I had no one. Until a guy introduced me to Tennille, and for the next two years, she was my pen pal.” Upon his release, Tennille invited Norman to live with her. It took some time, but he settled down. He got his kids back. He opened his own tattoo shop. Life was good—until a cousin convinced him to try heroin.

“The minute I did, it cost me everything. I lost Tennille, my kids, my business, my house, and my car. I contemplated killing myself. When a random stranger offered to take me to a recovery home. I agreed to go.”

Feeling like an outsider, Norman left and eventually landed in Nashville. Over the next several weeks, Norman worked day labor.

“One day a worker told me about Nashville Rescue Mission,” said Norman. “He said I could get a meal and take a shower for free. It sounded good. After awhile, I started sleeping at the Mission.”

One night Norman was drinking and playing pool, when the bartender told him someone bought him a line of shots. “I was drunk and didn’t care who bought them,” said Norman. “So I tossed them back. When I woke up in the ICU, a nurse told me someone beat me up on the pedestrian bridge and then threw me over onto the railroad tracks. When the paramedics arrived, I wasn’t breathing.”

It was a miracle he survived. Norman left the hospital with one eye swollen shut and a walker. He was homeless. It was February and cold. Luckily, he had the opportunity to recover from his injuries at the Mission. “I started going to recovery meetings at the Mission when a case manager asked me if I wanted a Bible,” said Norman. “One day I said yes. He prayed over me, and things started to change.”

“I was sitting at a table eating lunch on Good Friday, when a clean cut, nicely dressed man sat down,” said Norman. “When he asked me what brought me to the Mission, I shared my story. It surprised me when he said he was a counselor for the Men’s Life Recovery Program. He didn’t judge me. He accepted me. And when he invited me to consider the Mission’s program, I accepted.”

Over the next six months, Norman would learn so much about God, making friends, and living with other men also struggling with addiction. Norman was being transformed into the image of God. “I had lots of questions,” said Norman. “I was curious about the Bible. I studied verses in as many translations as I could. I enjoyed discussing what I had learned with those around me.”

“Before I came to the Mission, I was loud and cussed a lot,” said Norman. “But God changed me. He transformed me. And He used the people of Nashville Rescue Mission to work on me. I’ll never forget the day I was mopping as part of my work therapy and I got frustrated. One of the guys asked me if I wanted to pray. That was foreign to me. I threw the mop down, raised my hands up, and shouted, ‘God help me, I can’t do this.’ In that moment, I surrendered … I prayed and didn’t even know that’s what I was doing.”

For Norman, a life in Christ looked different than anything he had ever known. Two days after graduating from the Mission’s Program, Norman was baptized and joined a local church. Over the next year, Norman reunited with Tennille and soon after they married. He started working as a kitchen manager for the Mission and recently accepted a position with UniFirst Corp.

“I wouldn’t be here without the Mission,” said Norman. “I’d be dead or close to it. I’m grateful for this gift of new life. I’m living for the Lord now. I know some people have a hard time getting past my tattoos, but my tattoos are not who I am. In fact, I think people are able to see Christ in me more when they see where I’ve come from. I’m transforming my existing tattoos into messages of hope, truth, and grace.”

“Today, my life is time with my wife, my kids, and church,” said Norman. “The day you don’t see me in church is the day you need to worry. My church family is beyond any kind of family or friends I could have hoped for or imagined. When we didn’t have something we needed, they helped provide it. Between my church and the Mission, I have more friends than I can count.”

Want to help others like Norman? You can donate here.