For many nonprofit organizations working to improve the daily lives of others, adaptability is a crucial characteristic. I have enjoyed exercising flexibility this summer at University Settlement, a neighborhood center in the Broadway-Slavic Village community. University Settlement, which began as a training ground for social work students to help Eastern European immigrants adapt to life in America, now has nine main programs that range from a hunger center to transition-in-place housing. The organization has grown and changed based on need; my role at the Settlement required the same ability to adapt that has been exhibited by the organization for decades.
Earlier this month, University Settlement held its 14th annual Back to School Resource Fair. While Ford volunteers handed out boxes of supplies from the back of a truck at the first fair, this year’s fair was a carnival of free hot dogs, bounce houses, and pony rides. In helping to plan for the resource fair, on any day I could go from writing a grant proposal for youth programming to loading thousands of school supplies out of a truck, or from preparing for the Settlement’s annual Taste of Slavic Village to stuffing backpacks with a volunteer group.
While working in development requires a bird’s eye view of an organization, I have found that getting involved on the ground level allowed me to see small, but meaningful impacts, discover a new community, and positively inform how to work as a fundraiser. And after a summer of seeing out of the lenses of the social workers around me, I am challenging myself to find new perspectives and improvements in the systems around us every day. Since I’ve learned so much in just three months, I cannot imagine where I will be in just another year; however, I do know that I have been inspired by Cleveland’s nonprofit community to continue working toward making a difference in the lives of many.
Tasmin Andres, a graduate student at Cleveland State University, majoring in Nonprofit Administration and Leadership, is placed at University Settlement. Tasmin focuses on event preparation and community outreach. She is also responsible for planning the Back to School Resource Fair to be held in early August and assist in marketing and community outreach.