In the heart of Tennessee, there lurks a “secret society” that is made up of 9 women who call themselves “The 9 Nanas.” The mission of this anonymous group is simple – to perpetuate the spreading of happiness by paying it forward. "The 9 Nanas" have been on this mission anonymously for over 35 years now. Nobody knew they were doing it except for the people who were the recipients of their helping hands. Not even their husbands! How did the magnanimous ladies help? With some delicious pound cake, of course!
Over thirty five years ago nine ladies decided to do their own house chores and use the extra cash they saved by giving it away to help people in need. "The 9 Nanas" paid utility bills for those who couldn’t afford it, they delivered food for people who were down on their luck and they gave little gifts to those undergoing trying grieving processes.
"The 9 Nanas" bake kindness, passion and love into every tasty cake that they make. The women start early in the morning with an assigned task, and they start baking pound cakes for those who need an uplifting treat. The group also bakes them for orders placed through the official website. While "The 9 Nanas" focus on Christmas deeds, the women do participate in gift-giving throughout the year.
"One of us starts sifting the flour and another washing the eggs,” says Nana Mary Ellen, the elusive spokesperson for the secretive samaritans. “And someone else makes sure the pans are all ready. We switch off, depending on what we feel like doing that day."
“But you make sure to say Nana Pearl is in charge, because she’s the oldest!” she says playful smile.
“I admit, I protested at first. There’s just something about laundering that I don’t like. But I was outnumbered! So among the nine of us, we’d put aside about $400 a month and our husbands never noticed a thing. Their shirts looked just fine.” says another one of the Nanas.
When asked in an interview if the Nanas had any sage advice for other people wanting to make a difference in the world, they said, "We have three wisdom nuggets. A) It is our belief each person has been given an assignment to complete. B) Stay in your own lane and run your own race. C) And run (your race) like a thoroughbred trains—only looking ahead." Wise words from the group of Nanas who range in ages from 54-72 years young.
"The 9 Nanas" Speak
Can you tell me a bit about your background and what it was like growing up? Only four of us are biological sisters and our mother died when we were very young. Because our daddy was such a charming-abuser, our maternal grandparents stepped in. Not only did they provide a loving home, but they kept our mother’s memory alive.
Did anyone encourage you to pursue your charitable goals and, if so, please tell us a bit about them? It would have to be our maternal grandparents. They never just said we want you children to be charitable, but we watched them and mirrored their actions.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it? Remember there are nine of us. And our first jobs include: office manager, librarian, secretary, nurse and housewives and motherhood, if they’re applicable. We’re all retired now, but it was more than work, we saw it as serving.
Tell us about your first attempt at charity. Oh, that’s easy. It all started almost thirty-seven years ago. After reading the death notices in the local paper, we decided to prepare food and take it to the families. That went on for a few years. And of course, it was done surreptitiously.
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Recently the 9 Nanas have stopped selling their delights on their website, citing no particular reason, but urged people to help out locally, in their own communities, in their own ways.
My guess is advancing age is slowing their roll but after 35 plus years, I doubt they are totally finished. The 9 Nanas are the type of ladies who will continue to do what they've been doing so long, discretely and without having to deal with an onslaught of orders made online. They're much like a more caring version of the Energizer Bunny. They will keep going and giving and going and giving!