Operation Warm Up co-chairs

Operation Warm Up co-chairs Ann Markoff, left, and Rena Wertheim help sort donations to be packaged and delivered to local agencies in need.

Ann Markoff has never seen herself as someone who won’t be working in some capacity, so after 35 years of working for Mayfield City Schools in the Cuyahoga East Vocational Education Center, she knew she had to find something valuable to do with her time.

Following her retirement in 2016, Mayfield City Schools asked her back to work for the next four years, she said. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic forced her into a total retirement.

Markoff is a member of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood and it was there that she began finding volunteer opportunities to make differences within her community.

“I really did not see me as a non-worker,” Markoff said.

During the pandemic, she and six women from Fairmount Temple would meet in her backyard and discuss how the needs of the schools they worked at were shifting. She did not want to return to working at the school due to COVID and, when one of the women mentioned the National Council of Jewish Women Cleveland during a gathering, her interest was piqued.

“I got mentored into it from there and several of the women from Fairmount Temple really took me under their wing and got me involved with not only National Council but Fairmount Temple, so I credit the pandemic and these kind women for molding me,” she said.

Her involvement in volunteer work came about by happenstance, she noted.

“It wasn’t really on my part,” she said. “It just kind of morphed. I didn’t think about it a lot, ‘this is what retirement’s going to look like,’ ‘this is what volunteer (work) is going to look like,’ and it’s been a blessing that it’s all come together.”

Markoff said she has been able to invite her friends to get involved in volunteering, which has been helpful for them because, during the pandemic, they were “reinventing themselves” and figuring out what they were going to do with their time.

Currently, she is co-chairing Operation Warm Up for NCJW. The program collects warm winter gear and distributes it to people in the community who are homeless.

“I’ve always been in the helping field and always looking at resources,” Markoff said. “I worked with students. I was doing vocational job placement and career placement and prep for people with disabilities, and so I’ve always been interested in what resources could help them get to that point.”

Now, she is using those experiences to seek resources for the people in need within her community.

Another NCJW program that Markoff is involved with is Share What You Wear. The program collects clothes and school supplies for teenagers in need.

Markoff is on the board of Women of Fairmount Temple. She began as a corresponding secretary and is now co-chairing membership.

“The peace of co-chairing with people that think like me or meeting new people, I’ve been very appreciative of that,” she said.

Through Fairmount Temple, she became involved in BigHearted Blooms, a nonprofit organization that repurposes floral arrangements and brings them to residents of care facilities. She said she had never thought of herself as a creative person but, having gotten involved in recycling flowers to make beautiful arrangements, she discovered she does have a creative side and enjoys expressing it.

“That’s been fun for me to tap into (that) side of me,” she said.

She said she hopes to continue trying out new volunteer opportunities to find more programs that she enjoys being involved with.

“I don’t think I’m finished figuring out what else I want to do,” Markoff said.

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