Ann Eland is deeply interested in helping her community.
Whether she is spending time with Greater Cleveland Volunteers as a committee member, chair and board member, or raising her children as a young widow and getting them involved, Eland was taught from a young age about the idea of giving back to the community she lives in.
“My parents were generous and always gave their time too,” she said. “So maybe that instilled this in me from a young age and I didn’t even realize it. I saw it and lived it. My dad, although he was very busy, had things he was doing in the community. My parents were very happy. It all fell into place for them.”
Eland also spent time helping the Red Cross as a greeter at events but stopped that endeavor once the pandemic began.
While raising her kids, Eland would take them ice skating and ended up volunteering locally for the sport. Before retirement, Eland also lent a hand to the Kids in Need Resource Center, an organization that provides free school supplies to teachers, for 12 years.
CJN: What made you choose these activities?
Eland: I first met Greater Cleveland Volunteers in the early 1990s because of my job with the school district as director of volunteers. I hooked up with them and they sent volunteer tutors to our programs. I just fell in love with what they do because they do good deeds. I also volunteer on a couple of committees and I also make calls for them when they ask.
With the ice skating endeavor, I loved ice skating as a kid. So, when my kids were young, I would always take them skating. They fell in love with it and wound up spending their lives on ice. We were at the local rink so much, I noticed they had a Special Olympics program for disabled adults. I helped with that and loved it.
A lot of my volunteer activities were through my kids – like when I was a volunteer baseball coach for my daughter’s team.
But my feeling is, I need a purpose outside of myself. I know I am valuable but I don’t feel like I am as valuable as I could be if I am not doing something outside of myself. Life goes along and you try to do the best with what you’ve got.
CJN: Why have you volunteered for so long?
Eland: Well, it started with my parents. As a kid, I volunteered at one of the first Safety Towns and I loved it. And then I just kept going. I didn’t have a date or a time where I consciously decided to volunteer. Things just sort of fell in front of me and I knew it was the right thing to do. I just like trying new things. It keeps me young.
CJN: Where do you find the motivation to volunteer?
Eland: I am always looking for something and that’s why I like being on the board at Greater Cleveland Volunteers because I hear about it all first. Without volunteering, I’d be bored out of my mind. This pandemic is killing me right now because you can’t socialize as much. I am a social animal and being social is how you hear about things. It is a nice way to meet people, see new things and do new things. And when it runs its course, you can always try and find another thing that gives you pleasure. It is nice.
CJN: Do you have a favorite volunteering memory?
Eland: There are so many and each one is important to me. But it boils down to this – when people say thank you and are smiling, it is a good feeling. I get a kick out of it. And if no one thanks me and I still feel successful in the job I did, that’s great too. In the nonprofit and volunteering worlds, you meet the most interesting people from all walks of life. That is something I deeply enjoy.
CJN: What impact does volunteering have on you?
Eland: I would be looking for a job if I wasn’t volunteering. Because after about three months of retirement, if you’re active like me, it’s hard to wake up and not have anything to do or look forward to. It does give you purpose and consistency and it keeps your mind healthy. I think that if you’re healthy and able, you should find something worthwhile to do.
As for the future of her retirement, Eland said she just hopes she has many years left to make a difference.
“I am not ready to say ‘tata’ just yet,” she said. “I want to do some traveling and see things I haven’t seen. There is a lot of that. I also hope to participate in activities with my grandchildren, as well as stay involved with Greater Cleveland Volunteers. As long as I am of value and have something to do, I am always looking for something new. Hopefully, when it is time to slow down, it is because I want to. Not because I’m forced to.”