65-year-old Cheryl K. Jones lives in Brooklyn, New York, but the retiree says her volunteerism has expanded her love for places and people beyond her backyard as she helps others in need.
As a volunteer for New York Cares, the city’s largest volunteer network, Cheryl has lent a hand to more than 1,000 projects, helping thousands of children and adults. Giving back in a variety of ways, including revitalizing schools, packing hygiene kits, sorting coats, serving seniors and more, Cheryl boosted her volunteerism New York style in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, stepping up to feed hungry mouths amid the crisis. Applying Big Apple gusto through more than 3,000 hours of service thus far, Cheryl is changing her community for the better.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I have volunteered my entire life, through church, through my job, through organizations. When I retired, I wanted more fulfilling service work, and my daughter recommended New York Cares. Through the organization, I volunteer in a variety of ways that I never thought I’d be able to help with.
Describe your volunteerism with New York Cares.
I am a volunteer and also team leader for New York Cares, and have participated or led service projects in about every cause area, including park clean-ups, packing hygiene kids, revitalizing schools, yoga with kids, beauty spa for seniors, reading club for seniors, end of year celebrations at school for children, sorting coats, serving meals and VISIONS walking club. I am everywhere, doing everything.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
VISIONS offers services for the blind and visually impaired, and we do their walking club twice a year, a Spring and Fall club. One walking club attendee is now a personal friend of mine, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, she is now a shut in. We have a connection because of how deeply we bonded through our walks, and that bond is what you hope for when you start to volunteer. You want to make those human connections that let you know what you do is so appreciated.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Volunteering is how you feel. It’s not even about anything outside of yourself. Volunteering gives purpose to my life, it’s a calling to my spirit to reach out to people. ‘To whom much is given, much will be required’ is a verse from the Bible (Luke 12:48), but service to me also means, to whom much is given much is received. That feeling can’t be duplicated by anything else.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
It’s rewarding to know that when I get up in the morning, I have someplace to go and something to do that’s going to bring a smile to my face and a smile to someone else’s face.
How have you continued to volunteer throughout the pandemic?
Our volunteerism has been focused on feeding people because of increased food insecurity. People were in such a panic when the pandemic first hit, not knowing where their next meal was coming from. To be out there fighting against that panic, helping to calm people, and offering people an abundance of healthy food was so rewarding. I volunteered more than 1,000 hours in 2020, mostly delivering food or serving at food pantries.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Start close to home. When the pandemic first hit, I started volunteering close to home, I’d help whenever I could walk. Then I spread out to where I could ride on my bike, and then, when it started feeling safer, I went on the subway. Wherever you are in the world, start helping close to home and be of service to someone else.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
How can readers help?
Please visit the New York Cares website for more information about how you can give back.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Cheryl K. Jones? Find local volunteer opportunities.