If you were to ask Salem resident Samie Winick if she thought retirement is when life slows down, she’d have to disagree.
After spending 30 years as an educator in the special education department for the Youngstown City Schools, Winick told the Cleveland Jewish News that she finds herself even busier in her retirement due to her volunteer activities.
Saying she is “pretty passionate about civic engagement,” Winick is the social action chair and board member at her synagogue, Congregation Ohev Beth Sholom, where she started a social action book club, and is a member of the congregation’s sisterhood. She also serves as social action committee chair for the Jewish community relations council at the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, where she also serves as tri-chair for its annual campaign, and is on the cultural arts committee at the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown. Winick also is a vice chair on Kent State Hillel’s board of trustees.
Outside of the Jewish community, Winick is just as involved. She is a volunteer at the Mill Creek MetroPark’s children’s gardening program; a volunteer coordinator for Progress Mahoning Valley; a campaign team and core team member for the Ohio Religious Center of Reform Judaism and is on the civic engagement and national team for its Every Voice, Every Vote program and represents the state of Ohio; and is a volunteer with and chairs the Fund for Women and Girls, which is a fund through the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley that looks to make grants to organizations that work with women and girls. Winick also does voter registration around election season. Suffice it to say, Samie is a pretty active volunteer in her retirement.
CJN: Why did volunteering seem like a good fit for you?
Winick: Even before I retired, I was volunteering. But since then, I always tell people that Gandhi quote – “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” That applies to me. I find I am interested in a lot of issues and I feel compelled to do my part in the community.
CJN: Was this something you saw growing up?
Winick: I learned from my mother and grandmother. My grandmother was a philanthropist here in the community. My mom, even when I was a young person, would sponsor parties for students who were developmentally disabled. She’d make them cookies, shop for them and give each of them a present. It wasn’t just about giving money, it was about being hands-on. So, this whole idea of being a doer was how I was raised. My work is a continuation of that. It is very meaningful to me to be able to do it.
CJN: What do you like most about volunteering?
Winick: I enjoy it all. I feel that I am really doing something for my community. I feel like I’ve been a blessed person and I want to give back. Part of it is because it is hard to say no, but I think the reason I keep doing it is that I am choosing things I am interested in as well. When you see a need and you want to further things, that is sort of all you need. My support for the arts and delight in the projects I take on allows me to be creative as well.
CJN: What is your greatest strength? How does that help your volunteer work?
Winick: My greatest strength is connecting people – seeing how I can fit things and people together with organizations or different activities. I often say whenever I see an opportunity, I am thinking about who else I can get involved or who else would be interested. I am always thinking of who I can bring to the table. So, my strength is not only seeing those connections but being interested in making the connections. I am always thinking about the next step.
CJN: What has volunteering taught you about your community?
Winick: The Youngstown area has had a lot of stress. What I see in this community is that for the size of it, we have big hearts. So, I think our influence and ability to help others is outsized. I see a lot of really good people doing really good things every day.
As someone who is constantly doing something, Winick said she has a lot of friends who look to her for advice on how they can also volunteer. She said she always advises them to start with something they’re truly interested in because that will make them all the more eager to stick with it.
“Think about an interest or area that matters to you and then look to see what is available,” Winick said. “There are a lot of things out there.”