Melanie Kutnick has been community oriented for a majority of her adult life.
With her hands in many community organizations from NA’AMAT to the South Euclid recycling committee, her endeavors reflect a woman keen to give back.
CJN: Tell me about your volunteering life.
Kutnick: I’ve been a driver with the Jewish Family Service Association’s Meals on Wheels program for about four years. At Congregation Shaarey Tikvah, I was involved there for years and years.
A lot of my time is with NA’AMAT, where I’ve been a member for about 40 years, or close to it, and I’ve been on the board for a number of years in different capacities. And actually, next month, I will be installed as president of the Cleveland council.
Aside from NA’AMAT, I’m also on the advisory board of the Community Partnership on Aging, and that organization encompasses five cities of South Euclid, Lyndhurst, Mayfield Heights, Mayfield Village and Highland Heights. They do quite a lot of varied things for seniors in all those communities. They’re a great organization.
Also, besides that, I’m on the Highland Heights Commission on Aging. We work in conjunction with the community partnership. I’m also involved with the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as a couple of other groups when I can.
Before moving to Highland Heights, I was president of the South Euclid recycling committee, and I still help them out when I can.
CJN: How did you find yourself involved in an array of activities?
Kutnick: At NA’AMAT, I got involved through my mother who was a member of Pioneer Women back in the day. There was a chapter of young women who got involved at the same time I did. I just never left.
In South Euclid, for the recycling committee, it was weird, really. I just had in my head that I should get involved in some capacity in my community and I thought about the different things I could get involved in and thought well, that interests me. I started going to their meetings and never left them too.
And my work with Menorah Park with seniors, I always felt a connection with seniors. So, I guess, part of that is I’ve learned from the example of my parents that it’s important to give back in some way.
CJN: What inspired you to volunteer in retirement?
Kutnick: Now that I’m retired, and maybe I have trouble saying no, it’s a good time. I like to be busy. I like to give back. I like to, in any capacity, be helpful to others and for causes I believe in.
CJN: What ways has volunteering changed you?
Kutnick: Well, I have to say, that it has gotten me to, in all these different things I’m involved in, meeting a bunch of different people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. And they’re like-minded people. I enjoy that. And with the recipient, you feel like you’ve made a connection with them, it makes me feel good that I’m able to help someone in some way. Even small ways matter.
CJN: How does your Jewish heritage inform your volunteer journey?
Kutnick: It is part of the Jewish culture if you feel fortunate and that you are in a good place in life and you can give to others, that is part of Jewish culture. And I wouldn’t consider myself a religious person, but I definitely align myself with Jewish values. My parents were big on philanthropy and giving back because they felt fortunate because they could. And a lot of people don’t realize they can give back, even if it is in a small way. It’s part of the Jewish culture to want to do that.
As a new retiree, Kutnick has a lot of plans. Along with spending time volunteering at other organizations, her biggest responsibility will be leading the NA’AMAT Cleveland chapter, she said.
“It’s an organization that, at least in Cleveland, is waning,” she explained. “Most of the people in the organization are older than me, so it’s going to be a challenge to try and keep it going, and actually get new and younger people. I don’t know the answer, but I’m going to give it my all as a president. That is my goal.”
Besides volunteering, Kutnick enjoys being with her family.
“I love to spend time with my granddaughter, I have to mention that,” she said. “My husband and I babysat her for three years, two days a week for every week, and that just ended. So, I sort of miss that. But, I’m blessed she’s in town here and I spend time with her when I can.”