She wasn’t quite 5 feet tall and didn’t weigh 90 pounds soaking wet. She walked into the Apache Junction Food Bank thousands of times over 20 years completely put together – a stylish outfit with her nails, hair and make up done. As first impressions go, she gave off a no fuss attitude of someone who knew the score and could govern the whole place. And truth is, she knew more than most anyone in the building.
But, she could not keep her secret. Behind that attitude was a goodness to improve the human quality of life. And for two decades, this little spit fire of a lady helped more East Valley residents than we could possibly tally. It would be in the tens of thousands. Her story rivals any volunteerism tale in our nation and it happened right here in little Apache Junction, AZ.
Volunteers of the Apache Junction Food Bank and friends and family of Jo’s have been moved to tears several times in recent weeks. Josephine “Jo” Taylor passed away at 82 years old on August 27 after an infection. She was the longest involved resident in the Food Bank in its 35-year history having served on its Board of Directors, as Treasurer, Secretary, Bookkeeper and volunteer recruiter and trainer. Most recently she worked 5-8 hours a week in client services. It has been estimated she gave the nonprofit no less than 10,000 hours of her time. She received several Presidential Volunteer Service Awards, a recent one from President Obama was discovered by her kids.
She did not want to have services of any kind and instead wanted friends, family or community members touched by her or the Food Bank to make donations to the nonprofit in her name.
“Jo Taylor was one of my favorite volunteers,” said longtime Board Member and former President Gerry Hundt. “When I retired and decided to volunteer for the Food Bank my first trainer was Jo Taylor. Day one on the job was very interesting and demanding. Jo had her way of doing things (this was pro computers, so all records were hand written on 3X5 cards).
“Jo showed how much she cared for clients, she showed compassion, toughness and how much she cared for those in need. In her own quiet way Jo was a wonderful example of a volunteer who had the Food Bank’s mission front and center every day. I will miss her dearly.”
She was born in 1936 in Massillon Ohio and lost her husband when he was very young, leaving her with four small children, according to her daughter Janie. She worked in banking and moved to Corpus Christi, TX in 1981 where she met and married Bill Taylor in 1983. They settled in Apache Junction in 1997 after traveling around the county in a motor home for a few years.
“Mom loved volunteering at the Food Bank all these years;” Janie said. “She loved helping and being busy She also volunteered at a local hospital. She loved playing cards, especially Bridge; and the rest of her spare time was filled with shopping or "junking" with friends or taking in the shows at Hale Theater.”
“Jo was my good friend and my mentor,” said volunteer Sandy Steinert, who worked along side Jo. “She was the one who realized I had what it takes to care about our clients and to have an open heart to serve their needs. She brought out a side of me I didn't realize even existed. Her quiet sense of humor was the best. We hit it off immediately and we encouraged each other. We became good friends. I will miss her so very much.” She is survived by four children; Jeff, GayLynn, Janie, and David; twelve grandchildren, and two great grandchildren; and was preceded in death by her husband, Bill, and a daughter, Susan.
To donate to the Food Bank or volunteer, go to www.ajfoodbank.org, call 480-983-2995 or stop by 575 N. Idaho Road, #701, Apache Junction, AZ 85119.
The AJFB serves nearly 15,000 eligible families of the East Valley annually providing five days of food a month. More than 130 volunteers give over 14,000 hours to the nonprofit each year and it is always seeking more assistance and volunteerism.