A Smart Business column by United Way CEO Bill Kitson and a Plain Dealer article both suggest Millennials are hands-on philanthropists. We want to see our donated dollars, volunteer hours and advocacy make an immediate difference in the community. I agree; our generation is fond of instant gratification. However, when you meet the United Way Spirit of Caring Award recipient, you understand long-term commitment and steadfastness is how we will truly leave a mark on our community.
At our Annual Meeting, we honored Eleanor Steigman with the 2013 Spirit of Caring award. In preparation for the meeting, I talked to several people about her United Way involvement and commitment to our community. What I learned about Eleanor is a relevant lesson for us all.
Eleanor started volunteering with United Way in the early 1960s using her time and talent on several committees. Her 50-year volunteer commitment exemplifies her true passion and dedication to advocate for seniors and others in need of a voice.
Senior services in Greater Cleveland are a direct result of Eleanor’s diligent advocacy. Her involvement with United Way helped develop the premier senior transportation nonprofit serving Cuyahoga County– Senior Transportation Connections. Transportation to medical appointments, the grocery store, etc. is essential to helping the elderly maintain their independence.
She also influenced Cuyahoga County’s decision to move senior assistance from the Department of Job and Family Services to its own entity dedicated to addressing senior-specific needs called the Department of Senior and Adult Services.
Nancy Mendez our health program director shared a great story about Eleanor. Nancy was new to United Way and set up a meeting to meet Eleanor at a coffee shop. Nancy was expecting to have coffee with an elderly woman. However, when Eleanor pulled into the parking lot, she was wearing stylish sunglasses and driving a convertible. From that moment, Nancy knew she was a woman who broke stereotypes.
Eleanor is the type of community volunteer and advocate we all should aspire to be. She teaches us to remain steadfast, passionate and enthusiastic as we advocate for the causes we wholeheartedly believe in. Whether you’re a Millennial, a Baby Boomer or somewhere in between, I hope this brief synopsis into Eleanor’s volunteerism inspires you to be a great and influential part of your community.