Volunteering in Cleveland

Giving back lets you escape from your own worries and problems for a few hours, while providing the community with much needed help and services. 

Happy people have long understood that volunteering is the quickest – and most efficient – way to lift one’s spirits (and way cheaper than a latte!).  Giving back lets you escape from your own worries and problems for a few hours, while providing the community with much needed help and services.  (The estimated value of a volunteer’s time is $22.14 per hour, according to the Independent Sector.) The skills learned on-site also help enhance resumes and the people you meet volunteering can help build up your networks.

But there is another less discussed – but just as meaningful – byproduct of volunteering. It is one of the best ways to get to know Cleveland. Often it is the smaller nonprofits you’ve never heard of who have the best understanding of the nooks and niches, quirks and neighborhoods that make up our city. Volunteering provides a road map to this “underground Cleveland.”

In my role as Director of Volunteers, I’ve gotten to learn –and volunteer at many of these cool places, from the Ohio City Bike Coop, a west-side organization that fixes and refurbishes old bikes, then gives them out to low income kids (after taking them through a comprehensive safety lesson), to Community Greenhouse Partners, an urban farm that operates year-round, in an effort to help provide downtown residents living in a food desert, with much needed cheap and accessible fruits and vegetables.

SEE ALSO: Tackling Cleveland’s Trash Problem, From The Ground Up 


There are lots of these organizations in and around Cleveland that work in creative ways every day to hoist and lift those in need. If you are looking to make a difference – and learn more about the city, here are a few places to start:


ClevelandGives is a new, young professional volunteer group, sponsored by NCJW/Cleveland, that provides social volunteering opportunities around the city.  Each event is held at a different non profit – but the mission at each of the events is the same. Attendees mingle, get to know the organization’s story, and are then taught a skill that they then must give back to the community. In the past, ClevelandGives has worked with artists to create a mural for the residents of Fairhill Partners, a Cleveland Heights based organization and residential home that supports the elderly and kinship care families (Click here to see a time lapsed video of the event). ClevelandGives recently paired with The Katz Club Bar Car and senior citizens from RH Myers apartments for a throwback happy hour. Attendees learned how to make 1940s era drinks and learn about the history of Cleveland from those who lived through it. To learn more about ClevelandGives, go here.


HandsOnNortheastOhio is another volunteer organization that provides weekly volunteer opportunities for those interested in a diverse array of causes.  Volunteers can choose from an array of options: from walking, socializing and working with rescue dogs at The Friendship Animal Protective League, to providing GED tutoring to members at Merrick House, a neighborhood resource center in Tremont. HandsOnNortheastOhio also organizes the Homeless Stand Down event, an annual day-long event that helps provide medical, fashion, and health supplies and services to some of the city’s most neglected population. To learn more about HandsOnNortheastOhio, go here.

National Council of Jewish Women/Cleveland:

For 119 years, NCJW/Cleveland has provided dozens of hands-on volunteer opportunities, benefiting women, children, and families in Cuyahoga County.  NCJW/Cleveland currently has more than 18 ongoing service projects available, from hosting book groups for fifth grade girls in Cleveland schools to stuffing and sewing pillows for Cleveland Clinic breast cancer survivors.  Volunteers also accompany foster children on college visits and hand out free gun locks at safety fairs during the summer.

Happy Volunteering!

Rebecca Meiser
Rebecca Meiser

Rebecca Meiser Brouman is the Director of Volunteers at NCJW/Cleveland and a locally-based freelance writer. You can email her at rbrouman@ncjwcleveland.org and find her on twitter

@RebeccaMeiser. Her other writings can be found at rebeccameiser.com