When Barbara Tate was 51, she needed a walker to get around. She was on medication for depression and rarely left her home, a senior center in Euclid. She never imagined that, 20 years later, she’d have the life she does today. She’s folded up her walker, no longer needs medication and is able to leave the senior center.
Tate credits Greater Cleveland Volunteers (GCV), a nonprofit in Cuyahoga County, for her transformation. She joined the organization, formerly known as Retired Seniors Volunteer Program of Greater Cleveland, after learning about it at her senior center.
“I would be lost if I couldn’t volunteer,” says Tate. “I’d also be fat, sick and depressed. Volunteering has changed my life tremendously. I have met thousands of people, and there’s not one person I’ve met that I didn’t enjoy talking to.”
GCV, which started in 1972 and is located in the MidTown area, works with anyone 18 and older who wants to volunteer. There are opportunities in a wide range of locations including hunger centers, schools, homeless shelters, hospitals, job training programs, libraries, community centers, museums and cultural institutions.
Think of a nonprofit event in Cleveland, and Tate’s probably volunteered at it. When the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, Red Coats of Playhouse Square or nearly any organization calls, Tate willingly gives her time.
GCV Executive Director Joy Banish says research shows volunteering helps improve a person’s physical and mental health.
“People who volunteer regularly have 44 percent lower mortality rates, increased physical strength, less depression and larger social networks than non-volunteers,” says Banish. “This is especially true for older adult volunteers, but volunteers of all ages are positively impacted by their service.”
While Tate enjoys committing to one-day events, there are countless organizations and time commitments one can be matched up with through GCV.
In 2018, GCV had 2,393 volunteers serving at 138 nonprofit agencies in Cuyahoga County. It logged 117,010 hours and its value was $2.9 million, based on $24.69 per hour according to the Independent Sector, a national coalition of nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs.
“Our agency is here to work with individuals who want to discover volunteer opportunities, but aren’t sure of what’s out there or what they can do for others,” says Dianna Kall, GCV‘s communications manager.
By volunteering, Tate not only discovered new places in Cleveland, but a new way to fully enjoy her life while giving back.
“I love helping people and seeing the smiles on their faces when they just need someone to listen to them,” says Tate. “It fills my heart with joy.”
Online enrollment to volunteer at GCV is available on its website, greaterclevelandvolunteers.org or by calling 216-391-9500.