Lakewood OH

Volunteer opportunities for summer break

By Nicole Hennessy


Though it’s been a slow process of sunny days followed by snow and hail-laced rain and gray skies, spring is slowly turning to summer. And with summer comes free time for students.

Parents who don’t want to see the extent of their children’s time off consist of video games and boredom might sign them up to volunteer with a Northeast Ohio nonprofit, whether it’s for a few days or once a week.

If a volunteer is under the age of 18, depending on an organization’s standards, adult accompaniment may be necessary; but this, too, could be a great opportunity for families or weekend excursions.

Greater Cleveland Volunteers (GCV), an organization that connects willing volunteers with opportunities, lists more than 100 area nonprofits in need of a little assistance.

“We’re like a matchmaker,” said Jan Vectirelis, a local recruiter.

With more than 2,000 volunteers in its database, the 40-year-old organization includes Westshore nonprofits such as Lakewood Community Services Center, which provides food and housing assistance to struggling families.

In addition to volunteers, the center also collects donations. Its website states that for each $2 donated, nine meals can be provided.

A similar organization, Westshore Meals On Wheels, also connects with volunteers through GCV. Although Meals On Wheels’ focus is on delivering three meals per day to disabled or elderly residents, the volunteer functions for the two organizations are similar: prepare meals, gather supplies and connect with a population with which volunteers might not otherwise interact.

There are also nonprofits in and outside of the Westshore that offer unique ways to engage interests young people may have, especially those preparing for college in the fall or spring or home on summer break from college.

These include the Cleveland Metroparks, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Cleveland Botanical Garden, Great Lakes Science Center, Habitat for Humanity, International Women’s Air and Space Museum, PlayhouseSquare, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Not only can participating in volunteerism through these institutions cure the mentioned boredom, it can also serve as an important addition to college applications or resumes for those also seeking temporary paid positions throughout the community.

Volunteerism empowers the community,” Vectirelis explained. And while some of the larger organizations mentioned above can be fun and useful for those who choose to get involved with them, for those who really want to assist pressing needs within the area, there are smaller organizations, which Vectirelis sees as needing much more attention than they consistently get.

Those are anything to do with issues related to literacy, homelessness and veterans.

One such nonprofit she mentioned several times is Project Learn.

Located on Euclid Avenue downtown, the center partners willing tutors with adults who not only wish to learn to read at all or better than they do, but seek to obtain GED diplomas that will assist them in advancing employment opportunities.

Teachers on break for the summer would be great candidates for the center’s clients, Vectirelis mentioned.

At gas stations, grocery stores and while riding elevators, she seeks out volunteers. She says many people are interested; they’re just not sure how to get connected or where to look for opportunities.

The experiences gained through volunteering are usually always positive, “if you’ve got the heart to begin with,” Vectirelis said.

For more information on how to get involved with Greater Cleveland Volunteers, general information can be obtained by calling 216-391-9500.



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