Posted October 23, 2020
The Center for Community Solutions today named Catholic Charities volunteer Renee Hooks as one of Greater Cleveland’s Most Treasured Volunteers. Hooks joins five other volunteers from various organizations around the city as a recipient of this award, given annually by the center to recognize hardworking individuals dedicated to improving Cleveland’s local communities.
Hooks is being honored for her volunteer work at Catholic Charities’ Bishop William M. Cosgrove Center, a day drop-in center for individuals in the Cleveland area who are experiencing poverty and homelessness. While the inside of the center remains closed to guests due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, staff and volunteers continue to provide modified services, including pantry distributions and packaged meals served outside of the building Monday through Friday.
From preparing to packing meals, cleaning the kitchen and assisting with the center’s Clothing Closet, Hooks has volunteered at the Cosgrove Center every day for the last three years. Catholic Charities USA also recognized her dedication earlier this year, when she was nominated for the organization’s Volunteer of the Year award.
Hooks stated her commitment to the Cosgrove Center comes from her love and connection to the people it serves, as Hooks, too, was once homeless and a guest herself.
"My heart goes out to the families, the women, the men," Hooks said. "Because I've been there."
Her lived experience also helps her connect with guests on a deeper level. After her husband passed away unexpectedly in 2015, Hooks struggled with substance use and found herself in a women's shelter just a few blocks from the center.
"It was like God had brought me down here to give me hope again, to give me motivation," she said.
Even as a guest at the Cosgrove Center, Hooks always offered to volunteer wherever help was needed. She does the same now, but what's most important to Hooks is talking with the guests and showing them that she cares.
“Just somebody to say, ‘Good Morning, How are you doing,’ that really makes a person’s day,” she said. “If it’s just one word, or that smile. They need that. I just thank God that I'm happy to do that for them.”
In addition to Hooks, individuals honored as a 2020 Most Treasured Volunteer include: “Judge Chris” McMonagle, volunteer at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry; Julie Rea, volunteer at Seeds of Literacy; Maggie Rice, volunteer at Food Not Bombs; Tom Stevens, volunteer at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry; and Frances Tyus, board member at Joseph's Home.
The Center for Community Solution announced the awardees during its Celebration of Human Services event, which was held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Most Treasured Volunteer awards began in 1984, and since then “nearly 300 people in the Cleveland area have been honored for their dedication to volunteering, the vast majority of them at nonprofit human services organizations,” according to the center’s website. The website also states awardees are nominated by nonprofit agencies and have “ranged in age from 14 to 97, and have done just about every type of volunteer service imaginable.”