Taking part in a monthly food pantry is one of the ways Solon resident Judy Caine, third from the left, gives back. She is joined here by Mayor Edward H. Kraus, Jim Hyde of the Solon Rotary and Jill Frankel, director of the Solon Senior Center.

The first time Solon resident Judy Caine walked into the city’s food pantry, she was overwhelmed.

It was January of 2019, and she saw first-hand the needs of others – right in her own backyard.

“The first time I visited the food pantry, I was stunned, and it changed me,” she said, prompting her to join the Solon Rotary, which presents the pantry with food and funding each month.

There are individuals in Solon who are below the poverty line. “It’s here,” she said, and that is something she has committed to help.

Not only has Mrs. Caine, 63, attended nearly every food pantry since, but has served as an active member of the Solon Rotary, committing both to increasing the club’s membership while making significant change to the community around her through a variety of charitable projects.

Her path to volunteerism began early on, as she watched her mother Natalie Wasserman give back regularly to others, volunteering for such organizations as the National Council of Jewish Women.

But she became even more committed to serve others following a significant battle in her own life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 at the age of 43.

“I’m a 20-year breast cancer survivor,” said Mrs. Caine, a financial adviser with Cetera Advisor Networks and city resident since 1992. “There’s a reason that I survived.

“To me, it’s giving back for my blessings.”

Mrs. Caine underwent a lumpectomy, radiation and oral chemotherapy for nine years.

“You gamble with God,” she said. “You say, ‘OK, let me see my kids graduate from high school. Then ‘how about college?’”

She has seen both, including the birth of her first grandchild. Mrs. Caine and her husband Kevin have two grown sons, both of whom graduated from Solon High School.

“I’ve been so blessed, and now this is my way of giving back,” she said. “I feel pretty strongly about that.”

Mrs. Caine proudly describes the monthly food pantry and is often moved with emotion when helping load food into cars.

“Right now, because of COVID, we have a drive through where we pre-package things and put them in trunks,” she said. “The biggest thing with the food pantry is treating the people with dignity. Anyone can be in the position they are in.”

Last year, at Christmas time, she was loading food into a woman’s car, who had a car seat in the back.

“I put in a little extra,” Mrs. Caine said, “and she started to cry. I closed the door and wished her a happy holiday season.

“It’s very impactful,” she noted.

The pantry, presented at Church of the Resurrection, serves 16 communities, not just Solon, Mrs. Caine said.

“It’s opened my eyes to others,” she said of the need that is out there. “I’ve been told Solon is a bubble.

“We, at the Rotary, can do something about it.”

The club undertakes international projects in addition to its local giving, Mrs. Caine continued.

“My involvement is to tell our story and invite people to our meetings with the hope of growing membership,” she said. Currently, the club, which began in 2010, is comprised of 25 members.

“We have a really great story,” she said. “We have done so much around Solon,” much of which is done quietly, she added.

In addition to her work with the Rotary, Mrs. Caine has also served as a volunteer at the Solon Senior Center, making well checks to seniors by phone throughout the pandemic. She also helped deliver food during the shutdown.

While her sons were young, Mrs. Caine was also actively involved in Scouting. She regularly helps out at her church, St. Dominic in Shaker Heights, as well.

“My work at the Rotary is such a natural extension of Scouting,” she said.

Mrs. Caine has also shared her financial know-how, offering free workshops on financial wellness for area seniors.

A perfect day for her is meeting in person with clients and offering advice, helping the elderly navigate Medicare and then going to the food pantry.

“I just love it,” she said. “The best part is talking with the people.

“It’s all about giving back,” Mrs. Caine continued, “and being thankful and not taking for granted what we have.

“The breast cancer really illustrated that for me,” she said. “The diagnosis really changed my life.”

An active member of the Solon and Twinsburg chambers of commerce, Mrs. Caine is a native of Beachwood and graduate of John Carroll University.

She said people think she has been a member of the Rotary for so much longer than she has.

“We are quietly doing really good work in Solon,” she said.

Mrs. Caine models her life after a line in a favorite musical.

“During the finale of ‘Hamilton,’ the cast sings, ‘Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?’

“It’s such a great message,” Mrs. Caine said. “I cry every time I hear it.

“I’d like my story to be of someone who helped Solon be a little better.”

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