Volunteering with Benefits

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Almost four years ago, I started volunteering with the Cleveland Animal Protective League in Tremont. I have always loved animals and wanted to do something that made me feel like I was making a difference. I wasn’t getting as much personal satisfaction from my work as I would’ve liked, so volunteering at the shelter filled a void for me. Several years later, I still feel like it is one of the best things that I’ve gotten involved in. I spend a few hours a week walking the dogs, giving them love and getting some exercise and fresh air in the process!

As much as I would love if everyone volunteered at their local shelters (lots of animals need love at the city kennel, county kennel, etc.), there are also really great volunteer opportunities in Cleveland that bring some tangible benefits. Plus they are opportunities that let you experience events in Cleveland that you may not have been able to afford or didn’t even know about.

The Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF): If you haven’t been to the International Film Festival in one of the 37 years it has been coming to Cleveland, then add to your list – NOW. Last year’s event brought in almost 100,000 viewers, with 180 feature films, 165 short subjects, from over 64 countries of origin. It took over 8,300 volunteer hours to make this event happen. This year they are asking for 500 volunteers to assist between March 19 and March 30th. Perk of being a volunteer: you get two free movie tickets per shift you work! Training for new volunteers is February 22 from 10 – 11 a.m. at Tower City Cinemas.

Gateway Walk & Dine: Have you ever wondered what the inside of the apartments look like downtown? Are you dying to be nosy? The Walk & Dine tour in the Gateway District on July 16 is the perfect opportunity to volunteer and participate in the event. Volunteers work in shifts serving food and drinks at various swanky apartments in the neighborhood. Once you are done with your shift, you have time to check out all the places on the list. Tickets generally run about $60, so it’s a great opportunity. Volunteer positions can be hard to come by, so look into it early!

Warehouse District Holiday Tour: This event is very similar to the Walk & Dine, but occurs on December 3rd and benefits the Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation. I attended this event in December and it was a blast. We had the opportunity to check out fabulous penthouse apartments, eat delicious food and drink the night away. Many of the locations had live music, and we even got to check out the new Aloft Hotel in the Flats. My parents volunteered and they were able to see almost all of the same venues when their shift ended. You can’t beat free! Again, this one fills up fast because everyone wants to be part of this fabulous event!

The Cleveland Metroparks: Other cities envy our Emerald Necklace park system, as they should. The Metroparks are amazing and provide great access to the “great outdoors” pretty close to where most of us live. While some of the opportunities require greater time commitments, others are based on specific events. Although you won’t get free tickets out of this one, the benefits of being outdoors and in nature make up for it. Take advantage!

Playhouse Square: Okay, this last one is more likely to interest an older age group. I know you’ve seen them if you’ve ever been to a show at one of the Playhouse Square theaters – the Red Coats! With Playhouse Square being the largest performing arts center outside of New York City, they rely heavily on their 1,500-plus volunteers. This opportunity requires more of a regular commitment, but what better way to view some of your favorite Broadway shows, then for free. And let’s face it; with all that standing you’ll be doing before/during/after the show, you’ll be working out those legs too!

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