Living at the center of a family consisting of three children, two dogs and a husband, Sheila Levine worked for years helping to provide for her family. She rarely had time for herself or to give back to her community in ways that mattered to her.
When she retired five years ago, Levine wanted to give back to two causes that were close to her heart: InMotion and The Gathering Place.
At InMotion, she is on the board of directors, leads the client volunteer council and works at the front desk one day a week. Having a varied schedule of volunteer activities there, she also helped with a yoga class for about four years. At The Gathering Place, Levine does front desk work.
CJN: Why do you volunteer at these organizations?
Levine: My son-in-law, who is a physician, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. They ended up opening InMotion around the same time he was diagnosed, and it was a good fit for me to volunteer there because I had an interest in everything to do with Parkinson’s. So, not only do I work and help out there, but I also get a lot of valuable information about the disease. With The Gathering Place, a neighbor of mine passed from cancer. When she was dying, she said she loved volunteering there and felt bad to leave it. I told her I’d take her place instead.
One of the things that motivates me is I like to feel relevant. I started working when my youngest of three daughters was 5 years old, and when I stopped working, it was a shock. I don’t relish in free time, so I felt I needed to do something worthwhile. Volunteering is a good fit for me and has made a huge impact on my life. As InMotion builds its new building, I hope I get another shift at the front desk when they reopen. I love working there.
CJN: Was volunteering something you learned at a young age?
Levine: Actually, no. My mother had a sister that owned a couple of stores and my mother worked there. Her time ended up getting pretty full. My grandmother also lived with us, so we had a full house too. She donated to community organizations that she felt worthwhile, but she didn’t really have time to physically volunteer.
CJN: How has community involvement impacted your retirement?
Levine: Without volunteering, retirement would be awful. Now (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) is a good portent of what it would be like if I wasn’t volunteering and I have to say, I think it stinks. My husband is still working, but I really can’t imagine not doing something worthwhile. The time lately has gone really fast, as we’re pretty busy with the family on that front.
CJN: What do you think you’ve learned about yourself or the community during your retirement?
Levine: I’ve learned how important community is to people who have issues – and those who need help. Now that we don’t have it, we realize how important it truly is. It’s terrible not being able to physically support people, InMotion has 1,200 clients. But, we’ve been calling people to reach out and support them in any way we can. I have a committee of about 20 people and we’ve managed to call 600 of them. And of course, we thought at the beginning we would be calling them once – and now it’s been a lot more than that. We’re all very concerned about our clients and everyone else – but we have all the online classes and they do participate. But, it’s not the same as being with people.
CJN: Do you have a favorite volunteering memory?
Levine: Probably just the phone calls and how wonderful the people I call have been and thanking me for checking in and keeping in touch. I leave them my cell phone number in case they have any questions or concerns or even just want to talk – I’m available. And I have gotten calls, even if they just want to say hello. That has been great.
CJN: Why should others consider volunteering in retirement?
Levine: I can’t really speak for other people. I think some people are very happy just not doing anything, but if they feel a void in their life – they should at least consider something. I was always a big reader, even though I never really had the time. And when I worked part time, I did go to Tri-C (Cuyahoga Community College) for four years and took classes I couldn’t take in college. I think they just need to find what works for them.
As for the future, Levine said she plans to take it one step at a time. But, a big goal is to continue volunteering as long as she can.
“I pretty much want to do the same things I am doing now,” Levine said. “I would like to volunteer a little more. And I am hoping I can also continue at the pace I am at.”