NMU makes a difference

Diane Druper

On its 24th year, Make a Difference Day became the largest national day of community service. Collaborating with Points of Light, USA Today pursues their goal “to unite people, on one day of service, to make a difference in their communities.”

The Volunteer Center of Northern Michigan University is solely responsible for implementing this program for Marquette County. Madison Macek, one of the lead coordinators on the project, reported that there were over 1,100 students registered to help as well as over 100 community and student organizations.

These volunteers assisted people of the community with raking over 220 yards this fall, which may seem minor, but for those who are struggling this gesture is invaluable.

Community members leave comments about how proud they are of the student volunteers, Macek said.

“Everyone has a story, some have just had surgery or lost loved ones,” Macek said. “Others are community members who can no longer attend to their large yards. So knowing that we can help them just by raking their yard is incredible and always puts a smile on my face.”

Saturday, Oct. 24 brought rain showers to soak many volunteers in Marquette, yet even the smaller groups persevered through the elements to support those in need. Free breakfast and t-shirts are nice incentives, but the gratification from helping someone is worth the effort for these volunteers.re-MakeADiffDay

Rising out of bed early on a Saturday morning is commendable, especially for college students in the middle of the semester. So when Macek was asked to share the challenges in organizing this event every year, it was not surprising to hear about the fear of not having enough volunteers.

However, Macek says that every year Northern students and community groups pull together to make this possible.

“I am always grateful for the number of people who want to volunteer to make this event so successful.”

USA Today and Newman’s Own honor the efforts of volunteers by awarding $140,000 in grants to 14 honorees who are able to use the money to expand their Make a Difference Day programs, or donate it to another charity of their choice. There are 10 National Honorees whose “projects go above and beyond in finding a need in their communities.”

There are also three Community Honorees whose projects have government involvement, and one All-Star Honoree who is “a past winner that has demonstrated excellence this Make a Difference Day.”

All of this recognition encourages connection within communities, which will help the nation remain united in difficult times. Macek said the most important aspect of MDD is that students are volunteering their time.

“They get up on Saturday morning fairly early to rake random people’s yards because they care about their community. It’s nice to see everyone adopting Marquette as ‘home’ even though for many, it’s not their official home,” Macek said.

Being kind to people makes a place feel more like home, and USA Today describes the day to be “a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors.”

“No matter who you are or where you’re from, everyone has the power to do something that improves the life of another,” USA Today’s mission statement said.

Macek agrees with this statement, mentioning how many requests the Volunteer Center receives and stressing how all of us have something to give.

One simple act of kindness can change another’s day for the better, and that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“We all have something to bring to the table, so why not push yourself outside of your comfort zone and see what you have to offer to the world?” Macek said.

“We can all make it a better place and improve the life of even one person.”