Volunteering makes a difference
Yvonne Ford involved in many organizations
POLAND — Volunteering is something Yvonne Ford knows all about. She is involved in many nonprofit endeavors as she makes a difference in the Mahoning Valley.
Recently, Ford was recognized at a Boardman Park dinner for her efforts by proclamations from Boardman and Poland townships.
“The event hosted by the Boardman Poland Junior Women’s League was an evening of celebration with club members from across Ohio,” wrote Ruty Rodriguez Patterson in a news release about the event. “Yvonne Ford was presented with proclamations from both Boardman and Poland township, acknowledging her for her many volunteer hours to the communities.”
A 1976 Wilson High School graduate, Ford went on to attend Choffin Career Center to become a dental assistant. She said she wasn’t really college minded.
“I got a part-time job working for Dr. William Sweeney, got married (to Carl Ford) and raised two children, Christina and Michael,” she said. “I worked for Dr. Sweeney for 40 years.”
She said in 2020, when COVID-19 hit, Dr. Sweeney merged his office with Dr. Rajiv Teneja, also in Austintown. That is when Ford went from part time to full time and was filling the role of office manager. She continues in that position and balances it among her many volunteer hours.
She said she started volunteering when her children were in school.
“They attended St. Nicholas School, and it was expected of parents to volunteer in the Mom and Dad’s Club, to help out at school,” Ford said, noting she helped at school functions whenever she could.
When her children grew up and left home, Ford found other outlets for her giving spirit. In 2002, she joined the Boardman-Poland Junior Women’s League and joined the Holborn Herb Growers Guild.
“I thought the mix of the two would be a summer-winter balance,” she said.
She served the league as a devoted member and moved into the office of president for three years. She also held the offices of secretary, vice president and eventually became a junior director.
In the same time frame, Ford served as president of the Herb Growers for five years, with two consecutive terms.
“Normally, the terms for president were two years,” Ford said. “I was president on a second term when COVID hit, which changed things.”
She said the club couldn’t meet to have elections, so her term as president was extended to three years.
The Holborn Herb Growers Guild is something Ford is passionate about as she loves gardening and growing plants. She also joined the Mahoning Valley Dahlia Club to learn more about the beautiful flowers.
“I grow them at my house,” she said. “I enjoy it, but I do it for pleasure, not for show and competition. There are those who have their flowers under umbrellas because they are valuable show plants.”
Around 2010, Ford took on another volunteer role when she joined the Western Reserve Village Foundation as a trustee. She said several members of the village also were members of the Holborn Herb Growers Guild. As a village member, Ford was able to do what she enjoyed, namely gardening.
The foundation has charge over caring for the historic village buildings and grounds at the Canfield Fairgrounds. It was a good mix for Ford since the Holborn members build and care for the themed gardens in the village.
Like with so many other organizations, Ford served her term as foundation president for two years.
This year, another major role was filled by Ford when she took on another leadership position. She said in the past, the Junior Women’s League used to be for women up to age 40. For women over 40, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs was available.
“Today you can stay in the JWL at any age,” Ford said. “Their focus is to serve as advocates for children. The GFWC’s focus is on domestic violence.”
She said both organizations continue to serve the communities by raising funds to support their causes.
In April, Ford was named president of the Ohio Federation of Women’s Clubs and on Aug. 7, both Boardman and Poland townships presented her with proclamations recognizing her volunteer efforts and her presidency of the Ohio General Federation of Women’s Clubs. She will hold that office until 2024.
Throughout her volunteer organizations, she enjoyed working with the kids the most. The Junior Women’s League works with the Boardman-Poland Juniorettes, an after-school club that works in the community. Ford said the teenage girls do a lot, from sending Christmas cards to the elderly in nursing homes, crafting edible ornaments at Boardman Park and decorating the trees for Christmas, filling shoe boxes for kids under Operation Blessing, as well as others.
Through her service organizations, Ford said she works with the Bridges program, where foster kids age out and are off on their own. The Junior Women’s League and GFWC work with the kids to help them get a good start to life on their own.
There are many other programs Ford gets involved with as she continues to give her time and talent back to the community. She said being involved in various groups really does make a difference.
“In my personal life with volunteering, there are times I was able to help dear friends as a group,” she said.
She gave the example of a friend with cancer. She said it would be easy to give to a person, but when you have a group raising funds, one can do so much more.
For the future, Ford will stay involved in her clubs and foundations. As the new president of the Ohio General Federation of Women’s Clubs, she will be looking at the problem of attracting the younger generation into volunteering.
“It is hard to attract the young,” she said. “We are looking at Zoom meetings to make it easier for young women to join. They want to help. But they don’t want to attend monthly planning meetings. If we don’t change, we won’t keep the club together.”
Ford welcomes young women who are looking for ways to serve their communities. She tells them what it meant for her, and what they can expect out of volunteering.
“I would tell young people, if you want to make a difference in your community, volunteer,” she said. “You’ll make new friends and have experiences you would never have on your own.”
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