We Salute Local Volunteers (and They’re Really Great)

We Salute Local Volunteers (and They’re Really Great)


You don’t have to wear an elf costume — although that’s fun to do — lead a Girl Scout troop or own an incredibly well-behaved dog to be a good volunteer. All you need is a bit of time and a willingness to help others.




Here are a few Northeast Ohio givers. They were nominated by local agencies, businesses and Greater Cleveland Volunteers.

Sister Helen Scasny, SC has been a volunteer for Light of Hearts Villa since 2006. Prior to that, Sister Helen was the administrator for 17 years. She brings her faith and her love for all people to the Villa. She is responsible for managing the Cozy Corner Re-Sale Shoppe. She is an avid beekeeper and sells her honey (Nun Sweeter) at the Villa. She donates honey sale proceeds to the benevolent fund, which provides for seniors who have outlived their financial resources. Sister Helen volunteers an average of 10 hours a week and has accumulated more than 5,000 volunteer hours. The Villa — a faith-based senior living community with independent and assisted living, memory care and respite care — is a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

Bruce Goodman, president of White Dove Mattress Ltd., is a busy business owner who wanted to volunteer. The lunchtime mentoring program My Mentor My Friend, managed by Greater Cleveland Volunteers, piqued his curiosity. He enrolled with the agency, went through the training and began mentoring a fourth-grade student.

“I volunteer because I believe it is my responsibility to give back and help make the world a better place. I selected the My Mentor My Friend program because I believe all children deserve our support, guidance and encouragement to help them build rewarding and productive lives. This program targets children that want and need our support,” he says.

Michael Hoffman’s work with Hospice of the Western Reserve earned him the 2017 Medical Mutual Northeast Outstanding Senior Volunteer award, as well as Greater Cleveland Volunteers’ David F. Leahy Award for Volunteer Excellence. Mike sought volunteer work that was based on one-on-one relationships. He learned there are many older men that want to visit with others, play cards or go to lunch, and he realized he could be one of the few who fill that space.

“This is where I knew my efforts would have the most impact,” Mike says. “I found the first element to fulfill my retirement needs.”

Mike enrolled as a Friendly Visitor (companion) at Jennings Center for Older Adults, the McGregor Home and Hospice of the Western Reserve. It was the right fit. In 2013, his responsibilities expanded with Hospice of the Western Reserve when he became certified as a Hands-On Care Volunteer, providing extra support to male patients who prefer a male to assist with hygiene-related tasks. Mike helps in patients’ homes, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. His flexibility and versatility work well with diverse populations and personalities. He has positively affected a multitude of patients and families.

Mike also is a member of the film selection committee for the Cleveland International Film Festival and a RedCoat for Playhouse Square.

Erika McCreery is a volunteer for Senior Citizen Resources center. Erika takes pride in her volunteer efforts as she delivers six to seven meals to an apartment complex across from the center every day, then doubles back to distribute lunch items to those at the center. Though she’s 89, she still finds the energy to deliver meals in the community on Wednesdays to about 20 Meals on Wheels clients.

Susan Smith has embraced volunteering in all the cities where she’s lived. Sometimes the volunteer assignments turned into a paid position. Sue is the coordinator for the Players, a script-in-hand acting troupe that writes, directs and performs original educational and entertaining plays throughout Northeast Ohio. Her duties include booking the performances, completing paperwork and performing. The Players group is managed by Greater Cleveland Volunteers.

Louise Acciaioli has volunteered since 2005 by providing much-needed support to those in need of information, resources or just a friendly ear. She represents the Arthritis Foundation at expos, health fairs and community events.

Mary Ann Basista volunteers three days a week at St. Augustine Health Ministries, where she has been a recreation assistant and transporter, assisting non-ambulatory residents to and from activities in and through the building. She is one of the first to volunteer at events, festivals and special dinners. The staff appreciates her dedication to providing the best quality of life for St. Augustine residents.

Gene and Helen Beer are a dynamic husband and wife team who have volunteered for more than 20 years at Judson Services Inc. in University Circle. A few times a month, they spend the entire day interacting with residents. Gene plays the piano, sings, tells stories and shares good humor with residents. Helen sings and whistles along to the upbeat tunes.

Lucy Anne Christopher is a front desk volunteer for Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland, where she greets new families, gives tours of the facilities and orients them to the house. She also cleans the kitchen after family meals, washes and dries dishes, and safely stores leftovers. In her various roles, she radiates a gentle and caring aura to visitors.

Vida Habjan has been volunteering at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank every Monday morning for more than eight years. Vida has amassed more than 800 volunteer hours by sorting donations that are distributed to member agencies.


Gail Jackson found her volunteer calling at the International Women’s Air & Space Museum. Not only is this Cleveland museum at an unusual location (Burke Lakefront Airport), but it’s also internationally known for its dedication to women’s contributions to air and space. Gail provides support at the museum through volunteer assignments that include installing new exhibits, coordinating mailings, and preparing and executing special projects for children.

Mary Ellen Klein volunteers two to three day a week at the Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center, helping with non-confidential records. She mails clinical reports to doctors, schools, parents and others authorized to receive the documents.

Debra Shifrin and Steve Newman of Shaw Jewish Community Center of Akron have found many ways to serve the community. Steve is a past president of Beth El Congregation. In addition, he has been involved with The Lippman School, Jewish Family Service, Jewish Community Board of Akron and the Shaw JCC, where he currently serves as a board member.

Debra, currently treasurer of the Shaw JCC, has served on the board of The Lippman School and Beth El Congregation, and was a member of the inaugural class of the Jewish Women’s Leadership Initiative. She also was a past president of JCBA and campaign chair for its annual campaign. Outside the Jewish community, Debra has been involved with the Blick Center and the Women’s Endowment Fund of the Akron Community Foundation.

Mimi Surloff in 2004 established Stewart’s Caring Place: Cancer Wellness Center in Akron in memory of her late husband Stewart, who lost his battle with cancer in 2001. Mimi served as the first board president of Stewart’s Caring Place and remains involved as a lifelong board member, committee member and volunteer.


Sylvia Lewis is a member of the advisory board of NA’AMAT USA. Sylvia has been active in the organization since 1947. In 1993, she was elected its national president, and she completed her second term in 1997. In 2004 and in 2007, she was national vice president of program and education.




About the author

Marie Elium spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter in Virginia and Ohio before switching to freelance writing when her two children were young. The kids are now Millennials, but writing continues to be one of her favorite endeavors. Marie was named editor of Northeast Ohio Boomer and Beyond magazine in November 2015 and is a graduate of Miami University. Marie can be reached at [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like

Boomer Bash East 2018 Sponsors On Board for a Fun & Informative Evening

Looking for something to do ? Why not stop by Boomer Bash East next week ? We'll have live music, food samples, interesting people to meet and a few surprises up our sleeves. It's the Boomer Bash, sponsored by Northeast Ohio Boomer and Beyond magazine. We've gathered some of the area's best companies to share information, give away prizes, and keep you entertained for a few hours.