Retiring amid a pandemic, Claudia Madden was eager to find a new purpose and way to utilize her talents in a way that benefits her community.
Finding her place at Medworks, an organization that offers free health clinics to community members in need, Madden began volunteering while working, but has dedicated more time helping the organization over the last few months at their COVID-19 vaccination clinics. She also volunteers at Temple Israel Ner Tamid in Mayfield Heights as a Holocaust education teacher.
Her other major endeavor is Concern for Children, a nonprofit organization that operates as a support group for individuals and families touched by adoption in Central and South America. Every year, besides the last due to the pandemic, the group works in orphanages and organizes programs for children to receive vocational programs and education. She also serves on the board.
“When they read, they’re not out on the streets, they’re not vulnerable to negative situations,” she said.
CJN: How did you decide where you wanted to volunteer?
Madden: I need to have a purpose and a destination, and Medworks has helped me through that over the last couple of months, and I’ve been with them for several years. I saw a news article on TV about them and I contacted them and started volunteering in different roles. Whenever they needed someone in, that’s what I did. You wear many hats, and with the vaccination clinics, I mostly do intake work where you get files together.
With Concern for Children, it’s all about humanitarian commitment and your philosophies about that. My husband and I have seven kids all together, three from his first marriage, and then we have a biological child together and we said we wanted one more child. We saw an article about a child being adopted during the civil war in El Salvador and we decided to adopt a little girl, receiving placement in 1981. Then we got another little girl a few months later and adopted her too. We also have a son from Chile. It was a very personal thing to get involved with Concern for Children.
Holocaust education is something I am interested in. The textbooks in school have very little if anything about it.
CJN: What motivates you to volunteer during retirement?
Madden: Having a purpose is one of the reasons, but I pick and choose what I want to volunteer in. Concern for Children and Medworks are very important for me because of what they do and accomplish. These are amazing, good people, and that keeps me motivated to help them. With Medworks specifically, my youngest daughter works at Cleveland Clinic and she contracted COVID-19 and I was so terrified of that. She had been sick. So, when I found out they’d be administering vaccines, that was enough encouragement. You learn in life that as you get older if you’re fortunate enough to be comfortable, you need to give back.
CJN: Why is volunteering a good way to learn new skills and refine old ones?
Madden: One thing is that it is very motivating, and why wouldn’t you want to learn new things and be more educated and more learned about certain functions, people or whatever? This is what helps keep your mind open to information and education.
CJN: How has volunteering impacted you?
Madden: Volunteering is very humbling. It makes you feel very grateful for what you have and it motivates me to do more. It just felt like volunteering was a turning point for me when I was no longer working. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything, and I am at an age that if I would’ve contracted COVID-19, I would’ve been very vulnerable. There was nothing for me to do at the time. But, you can only read so much, watch so much TV or be on the internet so much. For me, being able to still focus on Concern for Children, which I was able to do, and then with Medworks’ vaccine clinics, it was a no-brainer.
As her retirement continues, Madden said volunteering has become a personal mission.
“It is just something I am so committed to,” she said. “I would like to see other older adults commit to doing something for someone else, especially those who have a comfortable life. It’s a good feeling. Sometimes I come home just dragging from the hustle, but the feeling is so great knowing what you accomplished – that it’s OK to drag a little.”