Proclamations for the dedication of the Ethiopian garden at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens from government officials were received and read by Herb Resnick, a member of the first Peace Corps group to visit Ethiopia in 1962, at an Aug. 24, 2019, event. 

After the death of his mother when he was 3 years old, South Euclid resident Herb Resnick’s father brought him everywhere with him – even to volunteer activities. Getting exposed to these experiences early set the course of his life – both civically and professionally.

Before starting his career, Resnick embarked on a Peace Corps trip to Ethiopia in 1962 fresh out of high school. Deciding to stay overseas in the East African country as a teacher for two years, he remained community-driven even after he returned and later retired in 2018.

Now, Resnick spends most of his time helping out at the Cleveland Kosher Food Pantry packing and distributing food bags. He is still involved in the Peace Corps and is a board member of the Menelik Hall Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) foundation that promotes cultural understanding and assimilation of newly arrived Ethiopian immigrants. As a board member, he helped get an Ethiopian cultural garden at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, which was officially dedicated in 2019.

In between his other activities, Resnick still helps to train and teach new Medicare insurance professionals.

CJN: What attracted you to these organizations?

Resnick: I belong to J-net, a Jewish networking group where we meet to try and pass business amongst Jewish people. And Rivka Goldstein, managing director of the Cleveland Kosher Food Pantry, is a member of J-net. She pitched the food pantry’s need for volunteers. I went one day and said I was there to help. I started only doing one day a week for a few hours, and that grew and grew from there. Just like with the Peace Corps, I felt a call for duty. She said help was needed and there I was.

CJN: What keeps you volunteering?

Resnick: In my business, you had to be on a phone call. Or you had appointments. That was the way you made your income. As I was slowing down, the need for income was not my driving force at that time because I had been there, done that. I did not have requirements where I needed to be at the office by a certain time. So when it came time for volunteering, it was on my own time. But, it just grew. I didn’t have any worries. My head was free – free to do what I wanted and to volunteer when I wanted. That has been a big part of my life. People have helped me along the way, so volunteering is my way of paying back.

CJN: What is your favorite part about volunteering?

Resnick: Just to see the gratefulness in people’s eyes – the emotion coming from their heart, hearing people say “thank you” over and over. This has been my whole life – seeing the impact on others’ lives. When I was doing Medicare, it was the same just making sure everyone had the right plan. But now, it is on another level. On Wednesdays at the Cleveland Kosher Food Pantry doing the drive-thru, the parents appreciate it, but I think the children appreciate it more. They ask where I am if I am not there to give them their food. And parents say their kids have been waiting all week to see me. So, the relationship and rapport are magnificent. But, I never expect anything in return.

CJN: What volunteering achievement are you most proud of?

Resnick: That is a hard question. Coming from the Peace Corps, volunteers and return volunteers are different than most people. But, I would say that more recently, working with the Cleveland Kosher Food Pantry has enlightened me and given me even more satisfaction. I thought that nothing would top the Peace Corps, but the food pantry is the underlying secret of the community, at least for me. You don’t hear about it all the time, but there is a tremendous need.

CJN: How does being Jewish play in your volunteerism?

Resnick: For me, there have been a lot of closed doors. Growing up as a young Jewish kid was very difficult. So, when these opportunities came to be Jewish and support Jewish causes, it meant a lot more than anything else. This is my life. I knew when I got out of the Peace Corps that I wanted to work for Jewish agencies and did that for 20 years. Part of that is tied to the summer I spent in Israel while in the Peace Corps, which further connected me to my Jewishness.

For new retirees trying to find their volunteering niche, Resnick said it will eventually pay off.

“The more you volunteer and get involved, you will become a better person,” he said. “At some point, it will come back and help you be a better person. Everyone should have an opportunity to volunteer – to be able to say you did something for someone else.”

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