Nashville (WSMV) – A Nashville songwriter is serving up more than fresh songs and catchy lyrics. 23-year old Ava Suppelsa is bringing hope to the homeless community of Nashville.
Suppelsa, who moved to Nashville at age 19 to pursue a career in songwriting, scored her first publishing deal with King Pen Music and Warner Chappell music in early 2020. Within months she started a non-profit organization at the height of COVID lockdowns.
“I started driving around the city as a way to get out of my apartment and I started to notice how many unhoused people there are [in Nashville],” says Suppelsa. “It’s really heart-breaking for me to see those people and not have something to give.”
Suppelsa says she made a post on social media asking any of her friends and followers to send money via Venmo so she could buy items for the homeless men and women she saw on the street. She admits the response was much larger than she expected.
“I thought I might get about $100, but I ended up getting almost $3,000 in my personal Venmo account and I was completely overwhelmed – but thrilled,” says Suppelsa.
Suppelsa used the money to make care packages and hand them out around the city. Through that, she developed personal relationships with the people she met on the streets. She shared her personal cell phone number for them to contact her with any needs they may have.
“A lot of times, someone may say ‘I need a pair of work boots,’ or ‘my tent has a hole in it,’” says Suppelsa. “It varies from person to person which is why it’s important to have that conversation.”
Suppelsa says the one-on-one friendships she has developed with people on the streets of Nashville brings dignity to the process. Her efforts were validated by a friend within the music industry who encouraged her to legitimize her operation. Within weeks, she had created Hope on the Row and secured 501(c)(3) status within 6 months.
Suppelsa is a full-time songwriter, but spends between 15 and 20 hours a week working to fill the needs of the community she serves. Her main outreach event takes place every Sunday afternoon at 2pm on Middleton Street between 6th and 7th Avenue. She sets up tables and organizes volunteers to serve between 75 and 100 people who attend each week.
“We make a sandwich bar. I go to the grocery store and get a ton of meat, bread and condiments and we make sandwiches,” says Suppelsa. “We have a bakery that donates cakes every Sunday and sometimes we serve barbecue, too.”
Suppelsa also accepts donations of gently used clothing, new socks, underwear, and wash cloths. You can contact her to donate by clicking here.
“Money is really the only thing we’re consistently lacking. I have the manpower, I have the need, I know what the people need, but we need the money,” says Suppelsa.
The young songwriter who dropped out of Berklee College of Music to move to Nashville admits she’s found fulfillment and purpose in her service to the homeless community.
"I feel like I'm at least making a difference in a day for somebody,” says Suppelsa. “It may not be a lifelong thing, but at least this day you felt cared for and somebody was looking out for you."