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Published: Thursday, 5/23/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Fresh faces taking on philanthropy in Toledo

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The look of philanthropy in Toledo is beginning to evolve, in the form of local young professionals from different industries working together to advance the community.

More than a dozen committee members, most of them under 30 years of age, have been working for a year to plan tonight's MDA Toledo Summer Kickoff Fund-raiser, a event to assist the local chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The group has focused on planning an event that helps the community, but they have also learned how to be better philanthropists along the way.

“Our focus is on the betterment of our community,” committee member Kris Mollenkopf, 30, of Toledo, said. “I think it's wonderful that we're all 30 and under. We're aiming to be the next philanthropists in Toledo. We've dedicated our time and energy.”

Tonight's event is expected to bring in close to $40,000 in corporate sponsorships, committee member Rebecca Shope, 31, of Perrysburg, said. She said the amount is double than what was brought in last year.

Labeled as a Gatsby-themed evening, the event will benefit only northwest Ohio families and will help children with Muscular Dystrophy be able to attend a week-long camp. Funds will also go toward research and purchasing equipment for a centralized supply closet designated for families who have someone with the disease.

Although raising funds for the proposed charity has been important over the past year of planning, the young professionals have also had a chance to make new friends and share experiences.

“What's really unique about our committee is that we are all very good friends,” Ms. Shope said. The committee meets once a month at Manhattan's in downtown Toledo, where they conduct business for an hour and then stay around to socialize and connect with each other.

While some have not been involved with fund-raising in the past, a few committee members have seen it as a learning experience in volunteerism.

“I think it's been a good learning experience. It's the first thing that many of us have probably done in the charitable endeavor and getting involved in a cause that needs help,” Josh Cooper, 32, of Ottawa Hills, said. The group has also been able to solicit the advice of local philanthropist, Barbara Baumgartner, who has mentored the committee along their journey.

The experience has also opened the door for creating a better Toledo.

“Being relatively young in the community, you want to see it become a better place,” Mr. Cooper said.

Fellow committee member Kyle Wilson, 30, of Toledo, agreed, and said the group and the event are important to energize other young people in the city to get involved.

“It's the desire to kind of keep the philanthropic involvement in Toledo. I think it's important for young people who plan to be here,” he said.

Similarities in age have helped the group grow.

“It's like minds of a like generation,” Ms. Shope said.

The committee is also most excited about how much the fund-raiser has grown and expanded from last year.

“We almost doubled our attendance since last year, and last year we started from the absolute ground up. We had no clue what we were doing and we just wanted to help,” Ms. Mollenkopf said.

Ms. Shope said the ability to double the funding shows the true power of bringing the community together to help people.

“It's a testament to the community, when I think about all of the people who have backed us,” she said.

For more information about the event, visit www.mdatoledo.org.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-724-6522 or on Twitter @KMcBlade.



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