Project Ideas for Make a Difference Day

These projects by past Make A Difference Day honorees can inspire your brainstorm sessions for ideas on how your group can use its special services to make a difference. Also on this site: planning guides and other resources to help you turn your ideas into good deeds.

TEEN GROUP LENDS A HAND: 75 volunteers from the Palm Springs, Calif., Yucaipa Teen Center held a food drive, did home repairs for elderly and disabled citizens, and cleaned up parks and roadways.

LOCAL YMCA LEADS THE WAY: Galesburg, Ill., Led by the Warren County YMCA, 400 children and adults from Monmouth and surrounding areas renovated a refuge shelter for homeless and abused women and kids; donated food for the needy; picked up litter; painted and insulated a house for Habitat for Humanity; and entertained nursing home residents.

STATE WOMEN’S CLUBS MOBILIZE: Nearly 1,100 members in 58 chapters of the Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs pitched in restocking homeless shelters, organizing community cleanups, visiting nursing homes. “All of the clubs are active in their communities,” says president Phyllis Cossarek. “But Make A Difference Day is a wonderful way for the clubs to do even more.”

MONEY FOR GLASSES, SCHOLARSHIPS: The Ellington (Mo.) Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce held a fall festival, parade and auction that raised more than $3,000 for, among other things, local scholarship funds and a children’s eyeglasses bank.

NEWCOMERS WELCOMED WITH EVENT: In Lenoir City (Tenn.) HOPE, an adult volunteer organization, held a Make A Difference Day Readin’ and Rummagin’ Day to benefit recent Mexican immigrants. Participants were given play money to purchase items donated by a church and were read to in both Spanish and English.

REUNITE A COMMON INTEREST: Former residents of the Homeless Prevention Center in Woodbridge, Va., operated by Volunteers of America, returned on Make A Difference Day to paint, lay a walkway and sort donated clothes.

HELP YOUR OLD SCHOOL: Alumni of St. Angela’s grade school in Chicago, Ill., restored luster to their 80-year-old alma mater, located in a neighborhood plagued by poverty and crime, by coming together on Make A Difference Day to paint classrooms, install proper lighting in the halls and a new sidewalk, repair broken doors, as well as donate $900.

IMPROVE YOUR GROUP: Armed with shovels, axes, trowels and determination, members of the Henhouse Ministry in Wagener, S.C., planted 200 liriope plants and shored up a wheelchair path at a recreational therapy camp for the mentally and physically challenged on Make A Difference Day. More impressive than their work is the fact the average age of these Henhouse “chicks” is 70.

STAY NIMBLE FOR EMERGENCIES: When an October downpour pegged “The Storm of the Century” pelted this seaside tourist town with 19 inches of water in 24 hours, 15 VFW Post #7997 ladies in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, shifted their Make A Difference Day plans to help. Besides holding a food drive for a pantry, they collected clothing and turned their post headquarters into a flood relief phone center; and rallied others to collected a truck full clothes and 2,000 pounds of Maine potatoes.

RALLY YOUR COMMUNITY: For the fourth Make A Difference Day in a row, Washington County Anti-Drug Task Force in Greenville, Miss., rallied churches, schools, businesses, clubs and town folks in this 800-square-mile Delta community to spruce up neighborhoods, roads and parks; raise the spirits of the needy with home repairs; and bring people together by converting an old school into a community center.

REACT TO A COMMUNITY EMERGENCY: The Catholic Daughters of the Americas came to the rescue on Make A Difference Day at a rehab home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for drug addicts and alcoholics in damaged earlier that month by a hurricane. That day, they delivered a busload of sheets, pillows, towels, bedspreads, T-shirts, curtains and mugs filled with personal care items, and even a domino table and two domino sets, and ended the day with a party for residents and a stop at a battered women’s shelter where they donated stuffed toys and dolls.

SUPPLY THE BASICS: In Idabel, Okla., in an area where one-third of families are on welfare, First Baptist Church “Women on Mission” filled wish lists of poor children at four schools in need of clothing and shoes, toothbrushes and school supplies.

BECOME A TRADITION: For the fifth year, Santa Fe, N.M., teens from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church helped poor and homeless families, abused children and seniors. On Make A Difference Day, they raised $2,200 by hosting an enchilada dinner and a bake sale to buy car seats, strollers, playpens, clothing, blankets and toys for children in state foster care and for Habitat for Humanity, as well as host a social honoring seniors.

HELP KIDS WITH HEALTH: To meet the dental needs of migrant children whose families cannot afford care, 65 students in the Oregon Institute of Technology’s Dental Hygiene Program provided nearly $4,000 in free dental care to 60 needy kids in Klamath, Ore., including 114 sets of X-Rays, and applying 130 sealants and 60 fluoride treatments. $2,000 to Oregon Tech Foundation.

BOND WITH OTHER GROUPS: The New Fellowship Baptist Church, a recent arrival to a poor Hispanic and black neighborhood in Nashua, N.H., and Grace Lutheran Church, situated comfortably in the suburbs, united on Make A Difference Day to repaint, refurbish and revitalize the Baptist church’s new home, then share a home-cooked meal.

LINK UP WITH NATIONAL PROJECTS: The 341st Communications Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Mont., combined a nationwide effort to connect classrooms to the Internet by the year 2000 with the national day of volunteering by “wiring” Huntley Projects Junior High School in Worden on Make A Difference Day.

TEENS HELP SHELTER KIDS: Detroit teens from Breithaupt Career and Technical Center’s Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) club helped to pick up the slack when a domestic violence shelter’s funding was cut. They brought two van loads of clothes to the Interim House, then paint, cut paper dolls and did various arts and crafts with the shelter kids, made lunch and did yardwork. They later bought gifts for 17 mothers and 31 children for the holidays.

BE A CRAFTY GROUP: A group of young-hearted residents of Town and Country Nursing Home known as The Doll Makers brought comfort to sick kids at two Minden, La., area hospitals on Make A Difference Day by presenting them with handmade dolls they made from buttons, fabric and love.

REGROUP FOR DAY OF EXTRA HELP: Meals of Marin (or simply M.O.M.) a volunteer group in San Raphael, Calif., that makes home-cooked meals for adults and kids with AIDS too sick or poor to do it themselves, saw its volunteer corps increase five-fold on Make A Difference Day as 75 school children and community businesses and groups pitched in to bring food and cheer to 60 clients with AIDS.

DEDICATE THE DAY: In Lagro, Ind., a rural community southwest of Fort Wayne, 100 volunteers came together on Make A Difference Day in memory of firefighter Bill Swan, killed in the line of duty two months before he would have turned 19, to clean and paint buildings and a ball field around town, as well as fill five trucks with food for a food pantry and install fire detectors in residents’ homes.

LOOK AT YOUR GROUP SPECIALTY: On Make A Difference Day, the 7,200 members of Weight Watchers of Washington, D.C., gave away clothes they’re now too svelte to wear — nearly 3,300 items, from suits to sweats — to two organizations that specialize in outfitting low-income women who have come through hard times and are job searching.

HELP YOUR LIBRARY: John Wesley Fellowship, the adult Sunday school class of First United Methodist Church in Ozark, Ala., restored order and beauty to the town library when members, ages 60-80, tackled long-overdue card cataloguing and yardwork at the 40-year-old building, from indexing thousands of cards, planting dozens of pansies to hauling away four truckloads of trash and yard waste.

INSPIRE OTHERS: With savings from her part-time job as a movie theater usher, Storey Radziunas, 17, spearheaded a drive at Mercy High School in Middletown, Conn., to gather $1,500 worth of brand-name cereals — kids’ favorites — for four area residential facilities for needy and abused children. Her project also inspired one young group of residents who sold candy and washed cars to raise money for the needy last Christmas, in part because of their Make A Difference Day experience.

MAKE IT A TREAT: The K Bar K 4-H in Kuna, Idaho, treated 75 abused kids, ages 2-12, to Make A Difference Day on the farm, complete with hay rides, treats, a rodeo clown and an opportunity to get up close with horses, hawks and llamas.

HELP THE ENVIRONMENT: Madison County Special Waste Task Force in Arkansas collected oil, paint, batteries and pesticides in an effort to keep toxic waste out of landfills.

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