Ely gives of his time and talents to a number of worthy causes. Among them are the following:
COA Youth & Family Centers helps Milwaukee children, teens, and families reach their greatest potential through a continuum of educational, recreational, and social work programs offered through its urban community centers and rural camp facility. As a multicultural agency, COA values diversity and cooperation and promotes growth and positive social interaction. Ely is a former board president and youth volunteer.
Hunger Task Force believes that every person has a right to adequate food, obtained with dignity. The organization works to prevent hunger and malnutrition by providing food to people in need today and by promoting social policies to achieve a hunger-free community tomorrow. Ely is a former member of the board.
The mission of the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation is to enhance the standard of living on Milwaukee’s northwest side by improving the business environment for our low-income communities through community economic development. Ely is a former board president.
Milwaukee Public Schools is the largest school district in Wisconsin. As of the 2015–16 school year, MPS served 75,568 students (86% students of color, 70% economically disadvantaged and 20% special needs) in 154 schools. Over the years, Ely has taught 12-week writers' workshops and novel study courses to middle-schools students, as well as a course on The Federalist Papers and an after-school puzzle and game club and, since 2014, has served as a math tutor, most recently to two 32-student 4th grade classes, and works with seventh and eighth graders on a reading and writing program studying various novels and history books, volunteering 30 hours a week.