For those who know me, they would probably immediately guess soccer and baseball games, family functions or catching up on client projects.
Most weekends, this would be true. But as I have done every year since 2010, I spent my weekend on the shores of Lake Erie helping Northeast Ohio nonprofits in need.
I am fortunate (yes fortunate) to be a volunteer organizer for a phenomenal event called Cleveland GiveCamp, a group of about 200 tech, marketing professionals and designers that come together over the course of the weekend to complete projects for nonprofits from Northeast Ohio. These are amazing people who dedicate an entire weekend to make life better for residents throughout the region and I cannot say enough about how proud I am to work with each and every one of them.
What we accomplished
When I talk about the event to colleagues, friends and family, I usually talk about projects in terms of the number of projects completed. But this year, for some reason, I looked at the event in a different way. This year, what struck me most was what we accomplished on a higher level, not just the number of projects completed. (For those who are curious, we completed 19 projects including new websites, a GPS-enabled web app, an educational game and database applications.)
What our work means to those we help:
- An organization has improved data collection and reporting capabilities, which frees up a full day for a staff member to work on other agency projects.
- Children have a new online game to help them understand the importance of healthy eating and how worms help food grow.
- It is now significantly easier for an organization to track the equipment inventory it loans to its program participants.
- Individuals who are looking for affordable housing in Akron have an online searchable database that features up-to-date listings in real time.
And I have 15 other stories I could tell.
We all have our stories about the organizations we helped. But like all the others who attended and volunteered for GiveCamp, I learned some things as well.
- I learned how a promising young doctor’s life was cut short, but his legacy continues. As I watched his mother cry telling his story, it further solidified my reason for choosing my career path and my dedication to helping nonprofits like theirs whose passion for their cause is unparalleled.
- I learned more about the tireless work of nonprofits that exist in my own back yard, many of which I had heard of in name only.
- I learned to appreciate the selflessness and dedication of our volunteers. Egos are checked at the door at GiveCamp. Often, many of us leave the event knowing the people on our teams, but never even considering asking them where they work. We know for those few days, we are there for something greater and we are focused on the task at hand.
Each year, there are returning volunteers and newcomers who have never experienced GiveCamp before. But I can tell you everyone who’s ever been to GiveCamp comes away changed in some way. Whether it is a new appreciation for the development process, or new personal and professional connections, GiveCamp has just a magical quality about it.
I can truly say that GiveCamp has changed me as well. Well I have yet to learn how to code, each year I gain a new appreciation for the work that is done here and for the people who dedicate themselves to doing it.
Thanks to the nonprofits and amazing volunteers, GiveCamp is, hands down, one of the best things I do all year.