Feed the Hungry
Greater Cleveland Food Bank
Mission: Ensure everyone has the nutritious food they need every day.
As the largest hunger relief organization in the region, it provides food and groceries to 940 local food pantries, hot meal programs and more. In fact, the food bank served 57.3 million meals from October 2017 to October 2018. Individuals or groups of volunteers commit to two- to four-hour shifts in the repack area, where donated food is sorted, or help in the on-site kitchen. “The food [that] volunteers are sorting or preparing stays right here in our region,” says Karen Pozna, Greater Cleveland Food Bank director of communications and special events. greaterclevelandfoodbank.org
Give a Set of Wheels
Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op
Mission: Promote bicycle use in Cleveland and engage area youth and adults in cycling.
The co-op offers safe cycling and bike repair programs, Earn A Bike programs and a cooperative bike shop, along with cycling events and tours. It serves many people who are experiencing homelessness, in recovery or who don’t have access to a vehicle. Volunteers prepare bikes for maintenance or salvaging, sort parts and help with retail. The staff teaches bike basics, and volunteers can exchange their time for the co-op’s services. “You’ll learn a bit about bicycle safety and maintenance,” says Erik Anderson, Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op volunteer coordinator, “and how many people in our city rely on alternative forms of transport.”
Enhance a Young Life
Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland
Mission: Enable all young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.
Known for its after-school programs, Boys & Girls supports students and families through mentorship and guidance. Groups can volunteer to do activities with kids, from painting and planting flowerpots to work-related projects such as a property cleanup. Be a mentor in the game room and teach kids how to play pool or pingpong, or try your hand at helping with homework. The clubs work to make special use of volunteers’ experiences. “If you’re a graphic artist and you want to help kids learn how to do InDesign or teach kids how to make flyers, you can do that,” says Ron Soeder, president of Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland. “If you are interested in dance, you can teach a class here. You can share a hobby or a career.” clevekids.org
Be an Education Mentor
Mission: Improve the high school post-secondary achievement of Hispanics in Greater Cleveland.
Esperanza’s mentoring programs give high schoolers academic and social support, while its youth leadership groups, family engagement activities and college mentoring program make well-rounded graduates. The college mentorship program involves encouraging students through text, email or phone. It’s a flexible way to build a connection and make an impact in about 30 minutes per month. “We match mentees and mentors based on their interests so they can build a personal relationship, because many of our students are struggling with getting through high school life from day to day,” says Morgan Ricketts, Esperanza director of development. esperanzainc.org
Support a Refugee
Mission: Support and welcome Cleveland’s refugee families and students.
In 2010, Refugee Response started its Ohio City Farm, where refugee families can work and sell their fresh produce to restaurants and customers. The nonprofit supports more than 60 refugees every year through mentorship. For one year, volunteers spend two hours per week with an assigned student or family. Several volunteers are assigned to each household, forming a mentorship team. “The bonds that form are very special, and it’s clear how important the mentors are in these kids’ lives,” says Rachel Browner, Refugee Response education program coordinator. “Many of them come from large families, and coming to the U.S. is an adjustment.” refugeeresponse.org
Improve World Health
Mission: Save lives and the environment by repurposing discarded medical supplies and equipment to provide humanitarian aid in developing countries.
Hospitals, doctors’ offices and health organizations donate items ranging from first-aid supplies, Band-Aids and Neosporin to lab needs and medical equipment. Volunteers sort and repackage supplies for shipping. Since its founding 25 years ago, MedWish International has shipped those supplies to 109 different countries. “Our mission is to improve global health,” says Caley Haehn, MedWish International volunteer program coordinator. “But we also consider it a lifesaving mission, because we are putting these supplies into the hands of people in need all over the world.” medwish.org
Touch a Child’s Heart
Open Heart Magic
Mission: Fill hospitals with therapeutic magic.
Open Heart Magic does bedside magic programs by trained volunteer hospital magicians for children at the Cleveland Clinic and other partner hospitals. Volunteers make a one-year commitment and attend Magic University, a 12-week training program. Volunteers learn tricks, techniques and routines. Volunteers are trained to work with kids regardless of their medical conditions or physical abilities. “There is something universal about magic, that a kid inherently wants to see a trick, and then becomes engaged and empowered,” says Eric Steigerwald, Open Heart Magic director of program development. “Often, parents will follow us out after a visit and tell us, ‘That’s the first time she’s laughed since we’ve been at the hospital.’ ” openheartmagic.org
Spread Literary Love
Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank
Mission: Provide free books for kids in need and stock Little Free Libraries in urban neighborhoods.
The Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank collects gently used books, sorts them and distributes them through partner preschools, social service agencies, food pantries, the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority and schools. Volunteers can organize a book drive at your school or with a group of friends. You can also help sort and pack books at its 5,200-square-foot Midtown warehouse. “You can do this with your [teens]. Show them you are taking books and putting them in a place where other kids can get them to read,” says Judy Payne, co-founder of Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank. “This is a good opportunity for young families who want to do community service.” kidsbookbank.org
Clothe the Needy
Shoes and Clothes for Kids
Mission: Provide shoes, clothes, school uniforms and supplies at no charge to improve school attendance.
The organization, the only nonprofit of its kind in Cleveland, has helped improve school attendance by up to 26 percent, according to its data, by providing quality clothing to young people. In 2017, SC4K distributed new school uniforms, other clothing, and Payless shoe gift cards with a retail value of more than $2.4 million. Volunteers can sign up to help sort, pack and distribute new shoes, clothes and school supplies or organize a collection drive to gather socks, underwear and school supplies — the three most-needed items. sc4k.org
Become a Reading Buddy
AARP Foundation Experience Corps
Mission: Act as a literacy tutor for kindergartners through third-grade students in the Cleveland and Euclid city schools.
Volunteers are trained and commit to tutoring in a school two to three days per week for two to 2 1/2 hours per visit, October to May, using the Reading A-Z curriculum. By spending about five hours in school every week, you can make connections with students and encourage their literary development. “It’s rewarding to serve as a mentor to a young student, someone who is there for them regularly, who can listen to them if they are having problems or just want to talk,” says Joy Banish, executive director of Greater Cleveland Volunteers. aarp.org/experience-corps/
Love On Animals
Cleveland Animal Protective League
Mission: Foster compassion for animals, end animal suffering and achieve 100 percent placement of adoptable animals.
The Cleveland APL operates a shelter, animal welfare clinic, spay-neuter services, animal advocacy and a range of programs focused on keeping animals safe and finding homes for adoptable pets. The organization also conducts humane investigations. Volunteer at an event, such as the Cleveland APL’s offsite adoptions, and help find animals safe, loving homes. There are a variety of ways to financially support the organization too, including sponsoring a cage, and plenty of need — the Cleveland APL helps more than 15,000 homeless animals every year. clevelandapl.org
The City Mission
Mission: Serve men, women and children at a point of crisis by providing essentials such as food and housing, life and job skills training, Christian teaching and guidance.
The City Mission operates crisis centers including Laura’s Home for women and Crossroads for men. It offers affordable housing through New Horizons Housing Collaborative and inmate outreach services to help the formerly incarcerated return to a normal, healthy life in the community. Volunteers can help with done-in-a-day projects including painting, cleaning, organizing and landscaping, or prepare and serve meals. thecitymission.org
Foster Student Success
College Now Greater Cleveland
Mission: Increase post-secondary educational attainment in Northeast Ohio through college and career access advising and financial aid counseling.
College Now helps students from middle school through high school, along with adult learners, realize the dream of getting a post-secondary degree. The ultimate goal is to create a college-going culture in schools. It has a presence in schools and offers a College Now Resource Center for adult learners, dislocated workers, unemployed individuals, displaced homemakers and veterans. Volunteers can become mentors that provide college-going advice and support as a student faces new experiences. collegenowgc.org
Prepare Teens for a Job
Youth Opportunities Unlimited
Mission: Prepare economically distressed young adults ages 14 to 24 in Cuyahoga, Lorain and Lake counties for the workplace.
School-based programs focus on career readiness, entrepreneurship training and internships. The idea is to teach youth how to create a business plan, and to prepare for an entry-level job. Volunteers can be a guest speaker and talk about their career, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, technology or any topic that helps prepare students for the work world. Companies can also host field trips for students. You can also judge student business plan presentations or mentor a young entrepreneur by becoming a business plan coach. youthopportunities.org
Make a New Friend
Eliza Bryant Village
Mission: Provide outreach services, programs and a secure living environment for seniors.
Eliza Bryant offers independent senior living, a rehab center, an outreach and adult day care center, outreach and support groups, and a program to help heal aging loved ones who are trauma survivors. Eliza Bryant is the oldest continually operating African-American-founded long-term care facility in the United States. Volunteers can help improve the quality of life for seniors by spending time with residents at happy hours, lunchtime or other visiting opportunities. elizabryant.org