Children who attend the after school program at the Hilltop-Cherry Creek YMCA on the city’s far Westside got a lot of reading in last fall.
The reading they did not only helped them improve their skills but also helped Nationwide Children’s Hospital by $850.
Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Leaders of Make a Difference Day Ohio has singled out the Hilltop-Cherry Creek YMCA’s efforts last fall as one of the more successful programs in the state. More than a thousand projects in Ohio drew some 30,000 people to volunteer the last Saturday of October.
One project was picked for an Encore Award, 10 others as outstanding and 33 as semifinalists for the outstanding project.
The Hilltop-Cherry Creek YMCA was one of two projects on Columbus’ Westside that were chosen semifinalists. The other was the fall cleanup day at Green Lawn Cemetery, where 80 people volunteered to help clean up tree debris from Hurricane Ike the month before.
Unlike most of the projects that were conducted on one day, the Hilltop-Cherry Creek reading program covered the entire month of October, said Mimi Connolly, a child care coordinator at the YMCA branch in the Cherry Creek housing division off Sullivant Avenue.
The children read every day and kept track of the number of pages they read, then hit up their parents and friends for a donation for every page they read.
Special guest Frances Strickland, Ohio’s first lady, sat down and read with the children.
“We’ve always participated in Make a Difference Day,” Connolly said. “It was a great opportunity for the kids with reading, and then getting the parents involved. We’re going to do it again next time.”
Make a Difference Day, the nation’s largest single day of volunteering, is held the last Saturday in October. Project organizers submitted reports to Make a Difference Day Ohio which chose the top programs that were recognized March 31 at the Forging New Links conference and luncheon.
Nationwide, ten projects for that day will be recognized with monetary awards set up through a foundation organized by the late actor Paul Newman.
At Green Lawn, the area’s largest cemetery, more than 100 of its estimated 3,000 trees were damaged and some uprooted by the high winds of Sept. 14.
People turned out almost immediately to help the grounds crew clean up tree debris. The last Saturday of October, 80 people came to help. Some performed tasks the grounds crew would have done had they not had to clear away trees. Their work that day coupled with all other volunteers in the two months after the storm added up to 762 volunteer man-hours.
“The work of the volunteers on Make a Difference Day and before and after was invaluable toGreen Lawn,” said General Manager Linda Burkey. “We were totally overwhelmed with downed trees and debris, but we were able to continue to perform burial services because the volunteers cleared so many sections."
Both the YMCA and Green Lawn are long-time participants in Make a Difference Day and are already planning their projects for this October.