Shirley Palumbo, through organizations such as the Clintonville Woman's Club, Northern Kiwanis and the Clintonville Historical Society, is working to make her neighborhood and her world a better place.

But she's hardly a one-person show.

Palumbo, the Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce's 2020 ThisWeek Booster Community Volunteer of the Year, knows it takes many hands, working together, to bring about important change.

"I like the notion that I can connect some things to get people to do things together," Palumbo said.

That's not to suggest Palumbo herself isn't a highly engaged and active volunteer. For eight years, she has served as a mentor for Franklin County Municipal Court's Changing Actions to Change Habits program, which supports victims of human trafficking.

Palumbo said she was aware of the problem of trafficking in Columbus and was encouraged by her sister-in-law to become involved.

CATCH pairs community mentors with women who find themselves in the court system after becoming victims of traffickers.

"It's a challenge. There are a lot of people who need a lot of things," Palumbo said. "We just try and provide as many resources as possible."

Palumbo, a member and past president of the Clintonville Woman's Club, has led the club in support of CATCH, providing breakfast for meetings of the group as a way to help people in the community see those who have been in the sex trade as "victims, not criminals," she said.

A retired English teacher in Columbus City Schools, Palumbo also has focused on literacy in her volunteerism.

She founded the Northern Kiwanis Club's book fairs for elementary schools in the neighborhood, including Clinton, Indian Springs, Colerain and Como. Palumbo said the events serve about 1,600 students annually.

As a member of Kiwanis, Palumbo has participated in club events such as its Easter-egg hunt and fundraisers for Special Olympics. She also has arranged for the club's student organization at Whetstone High School, Key Club, to volunteer at the annual Santa Breakfast, put on by the women's club.

"When I get involved in things, I look for ways to use and apply the skills I have," she said.

"Literacy and bringing people together are things I'm good at."

Palumbo said she also has encouraged women's club members to serve outside the community when there is a clear and demonstrable need. She has organized groups to volunteer at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, a prison for female offenders, and at the Karl Road branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, where a shortage of volunteers threatened its literacy efforts for students.

"People in (Clintonville) really care, so when there are opportunities outside the neighborhood, I like to take advantage of those, too -- especially when there is a chance to do hands-on work," Palumbo said.

"You have to go where the need is."

Women's club president Avis Gloeckner wrote in her nomination of Palumbo that she is a "humble and caring person" who's well-liked by her fellow club members.

"She is also a hard worker who never hesitates to volunteer for whatever needs to be done," Gloeckner wrote.

Palumbo, however, said there are times when she does have to say "no" to assure she can give her best attention to her volunteer efforts. That said, Palumbo doesn't see time as a barrier to volunteering.

"Everyone is busy," she said. "It's about prioritization. You can always do what you put first."

Carmela Crewswell called Palumbo "very generous and always willing to help others" in her own nomination.

A 35-year resident of Clintonville, Palumbo said she is thankful to have been given opportunities to do good things for people.

"I like to try and figure out how to work together to make the community and the world a little stronger," she said.

Palumbo will be honored during the chamber's 20th annual Celebrate Clintonville awards dinner, set Feb. 27 at the woman's club.

She'll be joined by the chamber's Businessperson of the Year, Brooke Kinsey, owner of Bleu & Fig; and representatives of OhioHealth, the chamber's Business of the Year.

Other recent Volunteer of the Year winners include Mark and Carina Carter, Nancy Stewart, Judy and Tom Skinner, Greg Denby and Will Reiss.

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