Rev. Ella Clay

By Ashley Benkarski

NASHVILLE, TN — Nashville-based Healing Minds and Souls is gearing up for a busy fall as their summer classes drew to a close on August 27.

The group will hold a fundraiser, HMS Gives, on September 16, and another round of courses will begin Sept. 17 and end November 5.

HMS brings “trauma-informed care to the community through resources, education, and building relationships to develop healthy and holistic communities,” their website states.

They’ve been on the ground providing help to fellow Nashvillians of all backgrounds with various programs and services, including classes that educate participants on financial literacy, spiritual growth and healing, and trauma.

Pastor Ella Clay, senior pastor at Historic First Community Church and Executive Director of HMS, spoke with the Tribune about HMS’s recent efforts and upcoming events. She’s proud of the work the organization has been able to do in the 37208 zip code— an area known for having one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation, making survival and financial stability even more daunting.

Moreover, said Pastor Clay, the area is a food desert, lacking nutritious and affordable food options that can result in severe health consequences for residents. 

HMS is addressing the issue by providing food boxes and serving meals, as well as hosting a community garden where participants can grow and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables. HMS also provides education and resources to help residents make healthier choices. Ultimately, addressing underlying issues such as poverty and systemic inequality can help alleviate the impact on vulnerable communities.

HMS has also concentrated its efforts on aiding the senior population, whom she lovingly refers to as “friends with wisdom.” HMS has provided meals and helped with home repairs, but Pastor Clay said she consistently heard stories of loneliness. “Social relationships are how we thrive and are healthy,” she remarked.

Since May 2022, she said, HMS, in partnership with Hands On Nashville, has provided more than 25,000 meals to seniors, and 1,120 community meals have been served to North Nashvillians. They’ve also given out more than 424 food boxes and have served more than 75 families in their resource center, which offers food and essentials without cost.

“The work we’re doing is vital and needed,” said Pastor Clay. HMS was awarded the Hometown Hero award in March 2023 by Ponce Law and FOX 17.

HMS has provided over 200 educational hours through its classes structured around various themes, one of which centers on trauma healing in three stages. The first stage focuses on the basics of dealing with personal trauma and emotions, while the second stage centers the impact of trauma on a spiritual level, overcoming that damage and healing through hearing the stories of others. Trauma III is a new course that will debut this fall, focusing on acknowledging systemic and societal issues that impact our daily lives and contribute to trauma.

“Once people come, it’s newfound freedom,” Pastor Clay said. “We encourage people to try something new, to experience life in better ways . . .They can come to a sacred space and be their authentic selves.”

HMS’s upcoming course schedule begins Sept. 17 and runs through November 5, with Faith and Finance, Trauma Healing III, and the Story of God.

All of this work is done with two full-time staff members and lots of volunteers. To continue doing their work, “We need family, friends, and funds,” said Pastor Clay. All donations are tax-deductible and go directly to the day-to-day operations of providing resources, education, and behavioral health services to participants. 

The annual HMS Gives fundraiser will take place Sept.16 at the 37208 Community Building at 2131 26th Avenue North from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. RSVP at (615)689-6811.d more information on Healing Minds and Souls at or call (615)491-4101 or (615)689-6681.