Volunteering – a long-standing Cleveland tradition that continues to give: editorial
Yuletide recalls an exemplary fact from our region: volunteering to help others is practically integrated into the public life of Greater Cleveland, a legacy of past success and a promise of future improvement.
The importance of volunteering in Greater Cleveland, and its plethora of contemporary examples, may be in part a result of New England’s legacy of the Western Reservation. Among the teachings of Boston Puritan minister Cotton Mather (1663-1728) was the responsibility of New Englanders to identify and care for the needy and sick. Coincidentally, Greater Cleveland’s first white settlers came from New England, and Mather was an ancestor of the Mather philanthropic family of Cleveland.
Volunteering was such a part of civic life in early Cleveland that it formed the roots of what everyone now considers an essential public service: the Cleveland Fire Department, which started as a company of Volunteer fire department established in 1829 in what was then the village of Cleveland, the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History reports.
Then, during the Civil War (1861-1865), the Clevelanders led by Rebecca Rouse and other public-minded women formed what became the Cleveland unit of the United States Health Commission.
This organization was dedicated to treating wounded or sick soldiers in the Union army, reports the Cleveland Encyclopedia. (And before the war, the Greater Clevelanders had formed anti-slavery societies whose membership included blacks as well as women in an era when white men tended to monopolize public life.)
In what is sometimes referred to as the golden age of American life, which followed the Civil War, the Clevelanders again volunteered, as they always do, in social shelters in the city, with the goal of acculturating newcomers to the area and familiarizing them with volunteer social services – and preparing newcomers born in other countries to acquire U.S. citizenship.
Along with the tangible services that volunteers provide to other people and to social service organizations, volunteering also offers enormous intangible benefits to the volunteers themselves – and to American society.
As Susan N. Dreyfus wrote in 2018 in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, altruistic efforts “unite neighbors and communities in a common cause and allow us to see and appreciate the humanity of each other. When we recognize each other’s humanity, we lay the foundation for understanding, empathy and compassion ”- attributes which“ then form the building blocks of a healthy civil society ”.
This was as true in the 1700s, 1800s, or early 1900s as it is today. In 1913, when booming Cleveland was the sixth largest city in the United States, the first United Way was founded here by civic-minded philanthropists who believed the community’s proliferating charitable efforts needed more. coordination.
Today, this philanthropic desire to give back persists.
Founded in 1972, Greater Cleveland Volunteers brings together and directs the energies of volunteers of all ages, but especially those 50 and over, in many one-off, short and long-term projects.
Meanwhile, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank could not deliver the level of food aid it provides to children, the elderly and others who are hungry without the more than 10,000 volunteers who last year – despite, for most of the year, in the midst of a pandemic without vaccine protections – donated over 55,000 hours of service. That was the equivalent of more than $ 1.3 million in salaries and benefits, according to the Food Bank’s calculations.
As long as human needs continue to grow and the generous spirit of the Greater Clevelanders does not die out, the region’s many public service organizations will continue to offer plenty of volunteer opportunities, as even quick research confirms. on the Web.
The spirit of the season is exemplified by giving rather than getting. Nothing illustrates the gift better – moreover, nothing embodies it better – than the gift of oneself, in one’s time, in one’s work and in one’s care.
To take advantage of another person’s situation is to benefit the future of the community. In this time of holiday celebrations and new beginnings, there can be few things more meaningful than helping others ease their burdens, experience new beginnings, or just the happiness of knowing that others care. others. Volunteer.
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