Giving Back Doesn’t Always Mean Giving Money: Alternative Ways to Help Your Community

Photo Of Volunteers Handing Out Supplies - United Way of Greater ClevelandMaking Cleveland greater, together, takes money and time. For those short on the former but willing to give the latter, here are some great ways to donate your time to those in need across Cuyahoga County through community outreach.

Join a Community Garden

More of a warm-weather activity, joining a community garden provides volunteers the opportunity to grow crops without owning a large plot of land. This is especially popular in urban areas where greenery and space are harder to find.

Cleveland boasts several community gardens including the Rid-All Green Partnership in Kinsman. The urban farm, consisting of two greenhouses and four hoop-houses, provides locally grown produce and aqua-farmed fish to local institutions and families.

Always looking for community outreach volunteers, Rid-All Green offers orientations every Saturday at 10 a.m. at 8129 Otter Road. Volunteers can help with everything including planting seedlings in the spring, conducting site tours, and helping with children’s workshops.

Tutor or Coach Kids

For those with less of a green thumb, tutoring, mentoring students, or coaching local sports teams allow volunteers to interact with Cleveland’s youth in a variety of different ways.

The low-income achievement gap—the differences in test scores between children in low- and high-income families—has been widening since the 1970s. School districts segregated by a neighborhood’s income can create barriers to quality education, including large class sizes, underfunding, and low expectations for student success—a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy—according to the National Education Association.

To combat this, many districts are always looking for volunteers to help engage students. They also often need tutors for homework help, lunch monitors, and role models or mentors to encourage students. Cleveland Metropolitan School District needs volunteers at all of its elementary and high schools and offers online registration for those interested.

Other groups like College Now of Greater Cleveland encourage Cleveland’s youth to look toward their academic future and pursue post-secondary education. Their mentorship program connects the organization’s scholarship recipients with professionals to provide college-going advice to students and professional contacts for transitioning into the working world.

Organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland and Cleveland Muny Football League offer volunteers opportunities to coach teams, instilling values and sportsmanship in area youth.

Work with Senior Citizens

Senior citizens are one of the fastest-growing populations in the country, and Cleveland’s senior community is in need of community outreach.

Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging has several locations across Greater Cleveland, with services including transportation and a companion program. The senior companion program links older adults with other senior citizens to help with shopping, daily chores, and friendship.

Work at a Food Pantry

In 2013-14 alone, more than 245,000 Cuyahoga County residents were food insecure—meaning they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, according to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Coupled with one in five children facing hunger across Northeast Ohio, organizations like the Food Bank have their work cut out for them.

The Food Bank acts as the central clearinghouse for donated and collected food for the region. Its kitchen prepares meals to be distributed throughout the region, and many of the organizations it works with are run completely by volunteers.

Volunteers can help with everything from sorting and packing non-perishables to cooking and food distribution.

United Way of Greater Cleveland and its partner agencies are always looking for corporate and individual volunteers to help meet organization needs through community outreach. Shown to have a positive impact on self-esteem, physical and mental health, sign-up today to receive information on how to make Cleveland greater, together.

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