Hope Taft exemplifies the type of volunteer, which she encourages others to be. Some individuals make others better people b being around them; Mrs. Taft is one of those individuals. Mrs. Taft has dedicated her time and skills to may projects for the state of Ohio, one of which is Make A Difference Day Ohio.
In 1999, Mrs. Taft approached the Ohio Community Service Council (OCSC) for help in promoting service and volunteerism in the state. Her vision, to engage Ohioans in meaningful service that meets community needs, led to the adoption and branding of Make A Difference Day Ohio. The OCSC has coordinated Ohio’s efforts with the support of a 40-member statewide steering committee representing corporations, nonprofits, civic and service clubs from across the state.
In 2001, Mrs. Taft recruited Jim Tressell, Head Football Coach of The Ohio State University, to join her as Honorary Co-Chair. They have served together for 6 years and as a result, last year, Ohio recorded a record number of 961 projects in 79 of their 88 counties!
Friends, coworkers, classmates and family members are encouraged to develop a one-day project that meets a real need in their community. Service projects range from people helping people, to home construction and renovation to animal rescue efforts and environmental improvement. The broad scope of this project reinforces the fact that any age individual can get involved in meeting community needs, and made a difference. The long-term goal is to develop individuals with an ongoing ethic of service. Mrs. Taft believes, “Volunteerism and community service are among the most important traditions we can pass on o the next generation.”
The results of her efforts have been astounding. National MDD Sponsors, USA Weekend Magazine and the Points of Light Foundation, recognized Ohio’s efforts with a National Award in the spring of 2002 and again in 2005 for, “going over and above previous accomplishments” with a National Encore Award. The true impact of her commitment was seen in the reflections of volunteers across the state speaking about their MDD Ohio experiences.
MDD Ohio mobilizes thousands of volunteers each October, whose service impacts countless others. Several years ago, the Warren Tribune-Chronicle newspaper challenged the Warren community to list MDD Ohio service project in the paper. The first year’s results were overwhelming; by challenging and encouraging local readers they had mobilized volunteers to participate in 80 projects. The following year they exceeded 100 and have no plans to stop there. One facet of MDD Ohio is to encourage participation through the presentation of recognition awards to outstanding projects to celebrate volunteer service. Annually the recipients have been greeted on stage to the applause of an enthusiastic audience and the First Lady of Ohio who presents their plaque.
Ohio’s volunteers have risen to answer the call to service as a result of the dedication of Mrs. Hope Taft, and she looks forward to more people to answer the call each year going forth.