While working as a teacher, Steve Goodman was helping his community by educating generations of children at The Lillian and Betty Ratner School. Once he retired, finding he had a lot of extra time, Goodman decided to help in the community in a new way – through volunteering.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Goodman said he had a full schedule of volunteer activities –- averaging a different activity a day, sometimes two a day. Starting with the Cleveland Hope Lodge, a free home away from home for cancer patients and their caregivers, he also got involved in the Ronald McDonald House and the Transplant House, organizations that offer similar services for patients seeking care at University Circle-area hospitals. Goodman served as a greeter at the front desk and gave tours to new arrivals.
“Hope Lodge was my first volunteer job because my mother dealt with cancer, moving to Sarasota, Fla., for care and working with the American Cancer Society there,” Goodman said. “So, when I retired, I called the society and asked what was available and they suggested Hope Lodge. It was my first full-time volunteer activity and I had no idea what to expect. But it is so rewarding.”
He was also involved in Council Gardens, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Children’s Museum of Cleveland.
Goodman now spends his time volunteering with MedWish in their alternative recycling program, which sorts and organizes supplies in a mission to reduce unnecessary waste. The program offers short-dated and expired supplies to local nonprofits like homeless shelters, animal shelters and schools. Additionally, he volunteers at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
CJN: What made you want to volunteer in retirement?
Goodman: I knew that when I was teaching, I was very busy with my job. I was constantly active, so I knew I didn’t want to sit around when I retired. I’m not a golfer or a leisure-oriented person. So, this has made sense to me and has sort of fit in what I did as a teacher, in the sense of paying it forward. I had a lot of contact with kids and now it is more so adults. But, the transition made sense to me. In teaching, there is a variety of activities I can do to pay it forward and help people, and the same can be said about volunteering.
CJN: How did you find these opportunities?
Goodman: Once I got started at Hope Lodge, I started running into different groups of people – whether that is the employees at other places or their volunteers. You just find that when you retire, you start getting into that world. I just got exposed to different places. With Ronald McDonald House, it was easy because they had similar goals and purposes. Other times, it was just other people asking me, “Oh, I volunteer at the art museum. Wanna try that?” And you get involved that way. It’s just amazing the exposure you get once you start.
CJN: How has volunteering impacted you?
Goodman: It gives you a purpose. I find it very rewarding to help people out. Again, it started with my mother going through cancer. My father would drive her to her appointments and it was all close by. But when you’re at a place like Hope Lodge, they’re coming from all over. This is a new place and they’re going through something so serious. I think that’s why volunteering, specifically at Hope Lodge, is so important to me. I think about my mother in this situation, and I think about how this could’ve helped my parents too.
CJN: Do you have a favorite volunteering memory?
Goodman: In general, it is just very nice to know that when I am at places like Ronald McDonald House, Transplant House and Hope Lodge, I never really ask people why they’re there as to not invade their privacy. But sometimes, you see them weekly and say “hello, how are you.” Sometimes that is all it takes, they just need someone to talk to. So, it is rewarding to offer them that ear, that support they need.
CJN: What motivates you to stay involved?
Goodman: The reward you get in teaching is the same reward you get from volunteering. It is one thing to sort things at the food bank, but the most rewarding thing is the personal contact you get. The thank you or the face you see. Just like in teaching, you read people’s faces, their body language and understand what they’re going through. You sense the contribution you’re making to make their life easier. That keeps me going.
Goodman said he just hopes to make a difference while paying it forward to important community organizations. That interest in wanting to do good can also help other retirees find their place in the volunteering community, he said.
“Try and find something that meets your needs and goals because there are so many organizations out there that need our support,” he said. “If you’re willing, you can find something helpful to the organization and rewarding for the soul.”