Local nonprofits look to The Big Payback for assistance amid pandemic

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The Big Payback 2020

A total of 988 Middle Tennessee nonprofits from 34 counties will be participating in The Big Payback, an initiative of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, on May 6-7.

The Big Payback has drawn a record number of nonprofits this year, including 96 from Williamson County, many of which are looking to pour money into changes made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 24-hour fundraising event hosted by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee will include 988 total organizations from 34 different counties. Williamson County represents the second-largest county pool of participants under Davidson, in which 586 of the nonprofits are located.

Amid the current pandemic and in the aftermath of the March 3 tornadoes, CFMT President Ellen Lehmen explained that supporting nonprofits is more critical now than ever.

“Nonprofits do important, life-changing work every day across Middle Tennessee,” she said. “Over the years, The Big Payback has become an opportunity for us to come together as a community to support their efforts and recognize the positive impact they have on our neighbors. It’s an easy and meaningful way for us to show our local pride, give back and make an enormous impact in so doing.

“As we have faced the 2020 disasters, it’s never been more important, and it has never been so easy.”

Starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6, people will have 24 hours to begin giving to organizations involved in this donation drive. Last year, the event raised over $4.1 million, adding to the grand total of $17 million over the last six years.

For the Refuge Center for Counseling, which is participating in the event again this year, The Big Payback represents a large piece of the organization’s support system.

“The Big Payback is our second largest fundraiser next to our annual event, Hope Grows, each year and we are so thankful for the Community Foundation of Tennessee’s hosting of this digital day giving event for Middle Tennessee,” said Katherine Hofstetter, the director of development at the Refuge Center.

Hofstetter shared that the donations received during the 24 hours of the Big Payback will go towards the nonprofit’s goal of raising $80,000 for its counseling services, which are offered on a sliding scale of $25 to $120 per session based on the patient's income.

“Our theme this year is that Therapy Transforms,” she said. “More than ever, this year the demand for affordable, emotional and mental health support is critical for the healing and flourishing of our community in the wake of both the tornadoes and COVID-19 crises.”

Any money beyond that $80,000 goal will go towards the $4 million needed to build the organization’s new facility. The Refuge Center is currently accepting early donations through the campaign, and one donor has offered to match each donation from now until the end of The Big Payback for the first $25,000 raised.

More information about the Refuge Center can be found at refugecenter.org.

The Williamson County Animal Center is also looking to build a new facility, but money donated through The Big Payback to the Friends of the Williamson County Animal Center this year will go towards the shelter’s pet food pantry supply and its spay and neuter clinic.

Ondrea Johnson, the director of the animal center, said that the shelter has had generous corporate donors that have kept the pet food pantry abundantly stocked so that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the shelter has been able to give some of its pet food not only to individual pet owners but to food distribution organizations like One Generation Away, which is also participating in The Big Payback.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have those corporate donations so far, but of course, the corporations won’t just keep us running forever, so there will be a portion of (the proceeds) that will go towards the pet food bank,” Johnson said.

She explained that, last year, the center spayed and neutered about 1,300 cats, and this year’s goal is 2,020, but Johnson thinks funding could be an issue because of the pandemic.

“The county is losing tax revenue and whatnot, so I don’t anticipate that they will be funding those kind of extra programs in the coming year,” she said, speaking of the new fiscal year starting July 1. “We’re asking Friends to keep the funding going for those community spay and neuter clinics so we can keep getting the outdoor cats in here and try to meet our goal.”

She explained that the clinics are important because Williamson County has a feral cat problem, and the animal center spayed and neutered over 500 cats in June alone last year.

Johnson said that, in addition to those programs, the center is anticipating the construction of its new facility for which they have not yet begun the fundraising process. However, she said that the center would welcome donations given for the specific purpose of funding the building.

More information about the animal center can be found at adoptwcac.org.

While the animal center and Refuge Center seek funding for their regular programs, Franktown Open Hearts is looking for money to go towards something completely new, developed in the coronavirus pandemic for families in need of food.

The organization typically provides the teaching and training of life skills to Franklin’s inner-city youth, including cooking, sewing, car mechanics, art, fishing, woodworking, homework tutoring and more, while also providing food to the kids after school and during the summer.

“All of a sudden now, our programming stopped, schools stopped, and so these parents, (many of whom) are living on less than $10,000 a year, were having to provide three meals a day for all of their kids,” said Chris Barnhill, the executive director of Franktown. “So, our program switched and morphed into food distribution.”

Franktown is now partnering with caterers to run what they call the Feed a Family program, which provides meals to about 50 families who have limited or no means to acquire and cook food at the moment.

Franklin Tomorrow is also hoping to use money raised for something new — a celebration of its 20th anniversary. Executive Director Mindy Tate shared that, after canceling its Charter Day Breakfast scheduled for March 20, Franklin Tomorrow is planning to celebrate with a community event on July 30 at Eastern Flank Battle Field Park.

“It will be an outdoor event, and we hope it’ll be something that will be kind of a reunion and an opportunity for people who have not been a part of Franklin Tomorrow to come gather and meet new people,” she said.

For more information on The Big Payback or to give to a participating nonprofit, visit thebigpayback.org/nonprofits.

Listed below are all the Williamson County organizations involved in the event.

21st District Recovery Court, Inc.

A.B.L.E. Youth, Inc.

African American Heritage Society Museum, Inc.

ARC of Williamson County

Artists in Christian Testimony

Assistance League of Nashville

Backlight Productions

Barefoot Republic, Inc.

Battle Ground Academy

Battle of Franklin Trust

Beneath The Skin, Inc.

Best Buddies International/Best Buddies Tennessee

Blessed Earth Tennessee, Inc.

Blind & Charity Fund Downtown Nashville Lions Club

Both Hands Foundation

Bravo Creative Arts Center, Inc.

Bridges of Williamson County

BrightStone, Inc.

Caleb Company

Camp Marymount

Center for Youth Ministry Training

Community Child Care, Inc.


Currey Ingram Academy

Daughters of the King

Deer Run Retreat Center

Diverse Learners Cooperative



Emanuel Ministries

Encouragement Ministries, Inc.

Fairview Arts Council

Fine Arts Matter Inc

Franklin Tomorrow

Franktown Open Hearts Ministry, Inc.

Friends of Bowie Nature Park

Friends of Franklin Parks, Inc.

Gentry’s Education Center at the Store Front, Inc.

Global Sanctuary for Elephants

GraceWorks Ministries, Inc.

Habitat for Humanity Williamson-Maury

Hard Bargain Mt. Hope Redevelopment, Inc.

Harpeth Conservancy

Healing Housing, Inc.

Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue and Sanctuary

Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County

High Hopes, Inc.

Hope Smiles

JDRF International/Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International

Lisa Ross Parker Foundation

Lotz House Foundation


Marriage Helper, Inc.

Mercy Health Services, Inc.

Middle Tennessee Golden Retriever Rescue

Music City Pet Partners

Music City Trykes Chapter of National AMBUCS, Inc.

My Bag My Story

My Friend’s House Family and Children Services, Inc.

Nashville Youth Sports Club, Inc.

Nature Conservancy of Tennessee

New Hope Academy

One Generation Away

Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary

People for Animals

Refuge Center for Counseling

Restorative Justice Foundation, Inc.

Resurgence Life Skills Institute, Inc.

Retrieving Independence, Inc.

Saddle Up!

Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation, Inc.

Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue

Solo Parent Society

St. Joseph Worker Foundation

Studio Tenn Theatre Company

Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes

Tennessee Breast Cancer Coalition

Tennessee Fisher House Foundation, Inc.

Tennessee Kids Belong

Tennessee Naturalist Program, Inc.

Tennessee Youth Symphony

The Gear Foundation, Inc. — Our Thrift Store, Inc.

The Parent Teacher Student Organization of Nolensville High

The Shalom Foundation

The Shower Truck/Shower Up

The View Community Resource Coalition, Inc.

The Well Outreach

Therapy ARC

Tucker’s House

WAVES, Incorporated

White Fawn Farm

Williamson Animal Services, Inc.

Williamson Christian College

Williamson County CASA, Inc.

Williamson County Child Advocacy Center

Williamson Medical Foundation, Inc.

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