Make A Difference Day helps community and students bond.

Alex Belz

On a Saturday afternoon in late October, World War II veteran Ed Laine looked out from his porch as 16 volunteers raked and did other yard work on his lawn. A job that could take one person an hour or two took the group of college students about 15 minutes.

There weren’t enough rakes for everybody taking care of Laine’s lawn, so those without rakes bagged the wet leaves, some of them grabbing them with bare hands.

“It’s really appreciated,” Laine said. “I can’t do it, and those big trees really have a lot of leaves that tumble out.”

Volunteers from the On-Campus apartments came to Laine’s Ishpeming house as part of Make A Difference Day. The event is hosted by the Volunteer Center and its objective is to help community members who are unable to work on their lawns. A variety of different groups across campus organize volunteers and go out to sites across the county.

About 1,177 volunteers went out to rake and bag leaves at 167 sites across Marquette County. There were almost 400 more volunteers this year than last year.

“I thought it was very successful,” said Victoria Leonhardt, a coordinator at the Volunteer Center, the organization which hosted the event. “We’ve been getting phone calls, and e-mails, and thank you cards from the people we helped out, and they were really, really thankful.”

Stephanie Rockwood, another of the Volunteer Coordinators at the Volunteer Center, said that Make a Difference Day is a great opportunity for student volunteers.

“The community is appreciative of it and it’s a really easy way to get involved,” she said.

Leonhardt and Rockwood said that volunteering doesn’t have to stop after Make a Difference Day.

“We do still have a couple of sites that didn’t get serviced, so if anyone is still interested in making a difference, we have a couple of opportunities,” said Leonhardt. “And we’ll probably get a couple more sites, as the leaves fall,” said Rockwood.

Kevin Conlin, Coordinator of Apartment services and the leader of the On-Campus Apartment groups that went out last Saturday afternoon, said that he felt Make a Difference Day was a great opportunity.

“I think it’s nice for Northern as an institution to connect with the community, and I think it’s great for the students to both connect with the individuals in the community and to experience outward volunteerism,” Conlin said. “What makes it really neat is the continued relationship as the year goes on.”

According to Conlin, this was the largest turnout the On-Campus Apartments had in a while. He also said that Make a Difference Day allows opportunities for volunteers to continue to help.

“We set up an appointment to go back with two of the houses so I think that will be really nice for students to have an ongoing relationship with the community and those two individuals,” Conlin said. “It was great to meet the people; the students had a great time meeting the owners. They were nice people.”