There's no better testament to the power of Taft's Difference Day machine than how it roared on after she left the governor's mansion. At least until recession-era budget cutting began. Shrinking government funding was the first blow to the statewide program, she says, but "the recession hit everyone. In the past we got a lot of private partners involved. That is hard now."
Ohio's official recognition program has been shelved, but the service day will go on in the state. Just check the national project registration website for the more than 60 volunteer projects scheduled to take place in Ohio alone.
Taft's personal giving-back agenda roars on as well. She has traveled to South America and Africa working in villages (mostly secondary schooling) under the auspices of the Tandana Foundation, created by her daughter, Anna.
When in Ohio, she can be found kayaking on Little Miami River — while bagging litter. "After Columbus we moved to Dayton and I loved the river. I noticed all this trash, and a neighbor and I decided, 'Why don't we start a group.' " Many cleanups later, she has set her sights on an Adopt-a-River campaign much like the successful Adopt-a-Highway.
Of special importance to Taft is her work with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. October is Red Ribbon Month, a campaign designed to reduce the use of illegal drugs, and a time when she would like to increase attention to the vulnerability of teens to addiction diseases. And to the support older Americans can offer.
"Kids listen to their grandparents even more than they listen to their parents," she says. "If grandparents were really forthright in their message to their grandchildren — that they love them, they want them to be their best, and that they can't be their best if they get involved with alcohol and drugs — it would make a tremendous difference."
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