It’s nearly universal. Perhaps not so readily apparent in some, but I submit it’s there, even under the crustiest of countenances. When you get right down to it, we want to make a mark. To leave a legacy. To make a difference.
Even in our competitive, “me generation” society, there seems to be an underlying desire to affect the world around us in a positive way, if only in our own neighborhood or within the walls of our own homes. While that may be particularly latent in some, often it takes a very small catalyst to spark that desire — and associated activity — back to life.
Evidence of that is an annual effort that has involved hundreds of thousands of individuals across the nation who, if only for a day, choose to “Make a Difference.” Called the “largest national day of community service” and “a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors,” the national Make a Difference Day started more than 20 years ago, the brainchild of USA Weekend Magazine and Points of Light.
Again this year, on Oct. 26, citizens across the East Valley will join in that mammoth service effort. Some will be “official” projects, reported on the “Make a Difference Day” website and vying for recognition and cash awards or simply wanting to share the results of their volunteer efforts. Others will be less-publicized family projects or joint projects by church groups, corporations, or neighborhoods.
Projects run the gamut from cleaning parks and community areas, to food drives, to helping elderly shut-ins with needed repairs or reaching out to homeless — anything, the Make a Difference Day website says, “to improve the lives of others.”
It’s definitely enough to get the juices flowing. If you are among the many East Valley citizens who turned out in force last year, you may already have a project in mind. If you are new to all this, or haven’t participated in the past, doing so can be as easy as putting on your tennis shoes and work gloves and showing up at a designated location. Of course, there is still time to fashion a project of your own making, or to get your Scout working on an Eagle project that weekend.
Or, organizations across the East Valley are providing ample opportunities to join in their service du jour. For example, the City of Mesa website states: “Over 1,500 volunteers are expected to participate in more than 50 projects across the City of Mesa … Examples of service projects include painting walls and curb numbers; cleaning up parks, alleys and canals; distributing fire safety and recycling education information and helping residents who need assistance with painting and landscaping.”
The Mesa site includes a volunteer tool kit and a service project idea sheet and other information about getting involved.
In Gilbert, among other volunteer options, New Hope Community Church tells about a joint effort between GO Ministry and the Town of Gilbert. The website explains: “We are seeking enthusiastic volunteers for the following projects available with New Hope to create care “Packages from Hope” for new college students, clean up Freestone Park and pass out free water bottles (family friendly), and volunteers to provide potluck lunch.”
Other opportunities to volunteer through the Town of Gilbert are listed on the website: gilbertcan.org/volunteer-registration.
In Chandler, Make a Difference Day is also referred to as “Chandler for Our City Day,” and “over 200 volunteers are needed … at Chandler Municipal Airport” to assist with a landscape beautification project. For information, visit: forourcity.org/chandler.html
Check, also, with your congregation or neighborhood to see if a project has been planned.
Bottom line, however, whether you participate in a formal project, gather your family together to clean your own garage, or simply take the time to smile at someone, Make a Difference Day offers a great reminder that — if only for a day — it may be easier than we think to feed that inner urge to truly make a difference.
Cecily Markland has more than 20 years experience as an editor, writer, project manager and journalist. A Mesa resident, she is the managing editor for The Beehive newspaper, serving Arizona’s LDS community, and a regular contributor to the East Valley Tribune.