Education is something integral to Sue Speizer.
Coming from a career steeped in education, her volunteer activities are also heavily related to her interest in helping others feel the power of knowledge.
As of right now, Speizer’s activities include being the Volunteer Voice newsletter editor at Menorah Park and Montefiore and writing articles for Greater Cleveland Volunteers’ partner, Community Partnership on Aging’s CARE program, which helps older adults stay in their homes longer. The newsletter for Menorah Park and Montefiore includes volunteer spotlights, photos and poems, all produced by Speizer.
Additionally, Speizer also used to help wheelchair-bound residents around the campuses, sitting in on activities with them. She has also wrapped gifts at Beachwood Place and knit scarves with NCJW/Cleveland. Though she “wasn’t very good,” Speizer said she still knits when she has time and gives the items away.
CJN: What inspired you to volunteer through your retirement?
Speizer: I don’t like sitting around. Being a teacher and educator is about sharing yourself with kids, parents and planning. I used to love working and reading with kids and training adults to do the same. I just love being with and helping people – always have, even as a kid. I love being in that helpful environment and do whatever I can. It’s kind of in my DNA. My mom gave us that very Jewish upbringing where you put other people before your own needs. It was that New York, that Brooklyn upbringing. My grandmother’s home in Brooklyn had an open door. Anyone could come in and get a meal. And that’s how I learned to always help people in need.
I also loved seeing that light in a child’s eyes when they finally got something or speaking with an older person who is lonely and needing someone to talk to. It’s about contributing to make the world a better place, no matter what you’re doing.
CJN: How does volunteering impact your life?
Speizer: When I did it regularly pre-pandemic, I would get up in the morning and couldn’t wait to see people, the residents, kids and other volunteers - and to work and laugh with them, inspire them to work with others and help them if they had concerns. It made my day and gave me a purpose for getting up in the morning. It filled my life with a good feeling knowing I was making a difference in someone’s life. And I hate not being able to do it as often right now. It makes me who I am.
CJN: What impact do you think you’re making?
Speizer: Specifically, when I was tutoring kids and watching them, I could see the difference. When I was growing up, I was never good at math and was tutored from a young age. I know how frustrating it can be when you don’t get it and others do. I had a tutor that helped me understand and it made me feel competent. I remember that feeling. So, since reading is my thing, I could see my students all of a sudden get it. You could see their eyes light up and the smiles spread on their faces. They could feel the confidence, knowing they can now go and feel accomplished instead of feeling lesser. Everyone has something special, and I believe that in my heart because I remember what it felt like when I realized I could do whatever I put my mind to.
CJN: How does volunteering positively challenge you?
Speizer: The positive challenge is the chance to get creative. Poetry comes to mind. I could do that quicker than I could speak something. So, sharing something with people and using poetry in lessons or in the newsletter to inspire someone or make them feel better allows me to use my abilities and challenge myself. It is important to use my skills in a way to give someone information, make them laugh and educate them.
CJN: Do you have any goals for your volunteer life?
Speizer: I want to take my writing to the next level. As a Gemini, we like doing different things. I don’t like being tied down somewhere at a certain time. But, the biggest thing I want to do is write more for the community. That would be my opportunity to spread my voice in the community.
Throughout her years of volunteering, Speizer said the key is finding something you’re good at and using that to benefit your community.
“When you find something that you’re good at and you enjoy, the person you’re doing it for enjoys it too,” she said. “Look for volunteer areas that bring you joy and come easily to you because you pass that along to the person you’re helping. Whether that is a job or volunteering, do what you enjoy. The love you feel doing it is key.”