Posted April 1, 2021
It took a near-death experience for Cindi Manning to realize what she wanted to do with whatever lifetime she had left. In 2005 she found herself suddenly in the intensive care unit with no blood platelets.
“The average person needs between 100,000 to 400,000 platelets to clot blood — I had none,” Manning says. “The doctors explained to my husband I might not make it through the night.”
Manning, who’s now 60, did make it through the night and healed from the blood disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. It wouldn’t be the only time she faced death, but it was that experience that helped Manning realize she wanted to give back by serving others.
She began by volunteering for LifeShare Blood Bank in Lorain County, promoting blood donation on TV and radio, at events, and at blood drives. But she felt as though it wasn’t enough.
“I prayed for guidance as to how I could do more to serve others in need,” Manning says. “You could imagine my surprise when a pastor literally knocked on my door asking me for my help with a new nonprofit caring for homeless families.”
Manning volunteered at Family Promise of Lorain County for 10 years, serving most of her time as president of the board. In 2018, as emeritus president, she helped the president at the time close Family Promise of Lorain County and transfer its assets to Neighborhood Alliance, where its mission continues.
She also served for one year on the board of Friendship Animal Protective League, and joined Mainstreet Amherst to help with fundraising, and graduated from Leadership Lorain County.
Volunteer work filled her with joy, but there was a lingering to-do on her “bucket list.” She wanted a college education. Not to advance her career, but to broaden her philanthropic efforts.
“I have had a very rewarding position as the chemistry resources coordinator at Oberlin College for 28 years, and I plan to stay at Oberlin College until retirement. I want to expand on my community service,” Manning says.
With its wide range of class offerings and the flexibility to take courses online or in person, Lorain County Community College was the perfect fit. She first enrolled in 2010, but it wasn’t until spring 2020 that she finally earned her Certificate in Public Administration.
Manning faced many barriers during those ten years – the greatest being the loss of both her parents. Her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Manning, along with her sister and father, cared for her until she passed in 2014. Just three years later her father died at age 92 from lung cancer.
Manning’s grief was compounded by her own health issues. The same month her father died, she had a total knee replacement. And before the year ended, Manning was diagnosed with a benign, myxoma tumor in her heart and had open heart surgery.
“I was informed by doctors how fortunate I was that the tumor was diagnosed before a massive heart attack,” Manning says.
No matter what life struggles stood in her way, Manning’s husband, Tim, was by her side, offering never-ending encouragement.
“Tim was so supportive throughout this endeavor,” Manning says. “He would tell me, ‘go for it, you can do it, you’re smart, you got this.’”
In 2019, Manning saw what Tim had seen the whole time – she could do it. Manning had just one class left to go and vowed not give up. And it was in that last class, Survey and Law, that a new public service seed was planted in her mind by adjunct professor, Audrey Forrest.
“She and I bonded right away. It was Audrey that gave me the nudge to consider local politics believing again that I have the ability to be a leader in our community,” Manning said.
Forrest saw Manning’s natural gift for leadership in the classroom immediately.
“Cindi is truly one of the most accomplished students I have ever had the honor of serving,” Forrest says. “In addition to going above and beyond the requirements of each assignment, she’s kind and well loved by everyone in the class. In short, she is a real leader.”
Manning’s humility leaves her feeling not too certain what specific characteristics makes her a leader, but she knows that life experiences can be shared with others.
“A good leader has history, stories, experiences that have helped them on their journey in life. This can be offered to others to help them see a different perspective,” Manning says.
Her philanthropic work will continue, but since that last class, Manning has been considering involvement in local politics, following in her father’s footsteps.
“My father, John Jaworski, was involved in politics in Amherst since I was a small child,” Manning says. “He served three terms as Mayor of Amherst and his father served three terms as Mayor of Lorain.”
Manning says her life has been full of adventures and knows many more – of both joy and sorrow – are to come. “I know what it is like to be a daughter, a single mom, a stepmother, a wife, and a grandma. I’ve faced death on more than one occasion, and I’ve watched both my parents leave this world.”
With that kind of life experience, Manning hopes to impart at least one piece of advice on to anyone who has a college education on their own bucket list.
“I urge anyone thinking that they don’t have what it takes to go to college, or don’t believe they have the time, or they think they are too old, to instead believe that they deserve to make the time,” Manning says. “You do have something to offer and you are never too old. We all deserve to make the time to better ourselves and no matter how long it takes. Never give up.”