The Community Foundation’s Heart of Nashville series revisits stories of donors and active community residents who have stepped up to ensure that our region continues to be one of the very best places to call home.

The Sarah Lousie Elliott Fun and Games for Fitness Fund  |  Established 2013  &  The Tate Elliott Literacy and Language Fund  |  Established 2016

Find what you’re passionate about, and find a way to help. 

That’s the advice sisters Sarah and Tate Elliott give to young people trying to fit philanthropy into their busy lives.

“If it’s something you really like, it’s not a chore,” said Tate Elliott, 17. Tate got involved with literacy efforts at age 12 and started the The Tate Elliott Literacy and Language Fund with The Community Foundation in 2016.

She was following in her sister’s footsteps, as it so happens. While still in high school, Sarah Elliott, 20, started day camps to bring healthy eating and sports equipment to underprivileged youth. She founded the The Sarah Louise Elliott Fun and Games For Fitness Fund at The Community Foundation in 2013. 

For both young women, their funds are a natural extension of their lives as Girls Scouts, as well as coming from a family deeply involved in giving and volunteering. 

“We are both athletes,” Sarah said. “I played a sport every season. I’ve had exposure to all kinds of sports, and I’m very thankful and very blessed.”

Sarah said she realized early on that not all young people have the same access to athletics and a healthy lifestyle, in part because of the costs involved. At age 16, she started a day camp with the Horizons summer program for underserved youth at University School Nashville. Her camp gives out sports equipment, teaches healthy eating and ways to lead an active lifestyle.

Now a Vanderbilt University student, she has enlisted more help and continues to lead a condensed version of the camp. She uses funds from The Sarah Louise Elliott Fun and Games For Fitness Fund to continue supporting the mission she set out to serve. 

Younger sister Tate Elliott’s interest in literacy began on her first mission trip to Costa Rica when she was 12. 

“I found out that if people are educated and literate, then they are more likely to get a job,” Tate said. “And if they can learn English, they are even more likely to get a job.”

Tate provided English as a Second Language books for Spanish speakers in Costa Rica. She got involved with literacy efforts in Nashville, discovering that books and instruction had the same power to change lives and were needed right in her own community. The Tate Elliott Literacy and Language Fund has helped fund literacy efforts at Preston Taylor Ministries, the Martha O’Bryan Center. and End Slavery Tennessee. She has really enjoyed reading with children and participating in activities at Preston Taylor Ministries and the Martha O’Bryan Center. 

“It’s always been a really big part of our lives, “ said the Elliotts of volunteering and giving back. “It’s something that has been passed on through our family.” 

Their mother, Cassie Elliott, an active volunteer, is their role model. Their grandmother, Sarah Matthews, has gone on mission trips to Costa Rica for 15 years and started taking her granddaughters along five years ago.

Both Elliott sisters came to their particular areas of philanthropic interest through the Girl Scouts highest achievement, the Gold Award, which focuses on identifying and taking action on a community issue. But once their award service ended, they felt that there was still more they could do.

After some research, they decided that starting a fund with The Community Foundation would be a natural extension of their work and would allow them the freedom to focus on hands-on activities instead of paperwork and fundraising. Friends and family were willing to support them, knowing they had already had a background in making a difference.

“It’s really rewarding to give back. When people receive, they’re more likely to give,” said Sarah, “It’s about just not being afraid to follow your passions, and share that with other people.”

And both sisters see the ripple effect of their actions. When someone gets a soccer ball to take home, it takes more than one person to play. That equipment goes back to a community and can get additional people active.

“You don’t understand the impact you can make on even just one kid’s life or one person’s life, and I think that’s what’s really important,” Sarah said. “It doesn’t matter if you are impacting the entire community — if you can just impact one person and change their life for the better, that’s all you really need to do.”

Photos by Anthony Scarlati

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