On a hot summer day, a fleet of canoes carrying about 50 paddlers glides down the Little Miami River. At first it seems they’re just a bunch of 20-somethings having a fun day on the water. Then a hand reaches out and lifts a slimy old bottle from the stream.
Called Don’t Rock the Boat, the trip is really a service project. Canoers pick up trash as they go down the river, culminating in an after-party—and a large pile of garbage—on the riverbank. It’s one of many projects hosted by Give Back Cincinnati, a nonprofit group that engages young professionals in service work in the Greater Cincinnati area. Their mission: Develop today’s communities and tomorrow’s leaders.
It’s all made possible in part by 2012 alumnus Ryan Alleman, Give Back Cincinnati’s development director. “I am responsible for ensuring we have the funding and resources that we need to fulfill our mission,” he says. “So it’s developing sponsorship agreements, grants, all of those sorts of things to ensure funding.”
Alleman and the whole board of Give Back Cincinnati do their work for free. He works at Macy’s as a senior analyst in their investor relations department—a position that has little in common with his volunteer work. But he says that’s one of the unique aspects about Give Back Cincinnati.
“Because of our mission, there’s a huge emphasis for the board members to get leadership development, the chance to do work that is either above your pay grade or that you otherwise wouldn’t come across.”
Despite the time involved, Alleman loves the work. His philosophy is, if you love what you’re doing, you’re going to find the time. Alleman is also no stranger to heavy workloads. As a student, he served in campus ministry, as a resident assistant and was student government president his senior year. After graduation, he found he had a lot of free time—for service.
“I feel fortunate to have had the experiences in life that I’ve had so far,” Alleman says. “To not find ways to serve others would be kind of failing.”