By Matt Jones
I grew up in the inner city, in a middle-class neighborhood. It was a good neighborhood, but, like any neighborhood in the inner city, it had its issues. I lost friends to the streets and others to violence. I attended one of the worst rated school districts in the State of Ohio. However, I was fortunate to have the guidance and awareness to change my mentality and realize my potential. I joined the Bridge Board and volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cleveland to support its mission and positively influence the kids of Northeast Ohio—I joined so others won’t have the same fate as some of my childhood friends.
One such volunteer experience was to attend a Cavs playoff game with about a dozen kids. A few were shy, others boisterous, but all were thrilled to be attending a playoff game. Prior to the game the kids rushed to create signs rooting for our hometown team. Once we took our seats, they were given shirts, towels, and treated to a free meal and beverage. The kids were filled with happiness and excitement. They were able to forget any issues, if only for a moment, and experience something they may not have otherwise experienced—a Cavs playoff win!
Another volunteer event that I enjoyed was helping kids decorate pumpkins. This group of nearly thirty kids were full of energy and creativity. They shouted for markers, glitter, feathers, and crazy eyes. They spent time showing off their creative genius to each other, myself, and the other Bridge Board volunteers. Some rushed through their designs and ran for pizza, while others carefully crafted their pumpkins. The joy and enthusiasm that these kids showed will never be lost on me.
I recommend volunteering with the Clubs and kids for various reasons. Some are mentioned above and others you will discover within yourself. As young professionals it’s important to surround ourselves with people from different backgrounds, ideas, and beliefs in order to tear down perceived barriers and enhance our understanding of our community. Through volunteering, what was once an issue that did not concern me has since become one because I better understand the issues of the community at large. So if there’s one thing I want to say it’s this: get out and volunteer because you can change not only the life of others, but yours as well.