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October 14, 2009 > Small acts, big impact

Small acts, big impact

Make a Difference Day is October 24

By Alyson Whitaker

Changing the world doesn't happen overnight. Nor does it occur through one single, grandiose act or deed. Rather, change occurs when people band together and perform small acts of service for their neighbors, friends, families, and community. A single kind deed might seem insignificant, but when added to thousands of others, there can be an infusion of good will which can be felt across the nation.

In an era of fast-paced, largely self-centered living, it is easy to get caught up in our own day-to-day responsibilities, worries, and needs. Many of us don't know the people living next door, let alone those down the street or across town. It takes a concerted effort to step back, look around, and see what's happening in the wider world. Becoming aware of the needs of our neighbors, communities, state, nation, and ultimately our world, can inspire us to take action, one kind deed at a time.

This thought process is the backbone of Make a Difference Day. The event was started 19 years ago by USA Weekend Magazine and HandsOn Network - a division of Points of Light Institute. Thanks to the passion and service of everyday people just like you and me, the event has grown into the largest day of volunteering and service in our nation. Held annually on the fourth Saturday in October, Make a Difference Day connects people with opportunities to serve; lives are changed, and communities are strengthened.

In 2008, three million people came forward to volunteer during that day. Thousands of projects were accomplished in hundreds of communities across the country. Participation in the event is open to everyone. Whether young or old, male or female, rich or poor, an individual or a group; anyone can carry out a volunteer project that makes a difference. It might be as ambitious as a neighborhood joining together to rebuild a community park, or as simple as a young child spending an afternoon helping an elderly relative or neighbor.

To be officially counted as a participant in the nationwide event, you must register your project on the official event website - www.makeadifferenceday.com. Through the site, you can sign up to help with projects already in progress, or register your own and request additional volunteers. Following completion of the event or project, participants must then submit the official award entry form with the outline and description of your participation, and a summary of the service provided.

Newman's Own, the company founded by actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, provides ten - $10,000 prizes to volunteers who have identified a need, and found a solution, through volunteer service. The prizes are awarded as donations to the charities of choice of the ten national honorees.

Don't let a lack of time or ideas dampen your enthusiasm or stop you from participating. If you don't feel inspired on your own, the event website has an extensive list of ideas for corporations, families, church or school groups, as well as individuals. Planning tools are also available to help execute your service.

If your community doesn't have official projects planned, don't let that stop you from volunteering. There are opportunities everywhere. Deliver a box or bag of groceries to a family going through tough economic times. Volunteer a morning at a local shelter. Help your kids draw some pictures and deliver them to an assisted living facility in your neighborhood. Help a friend with some yard work or minor home repairs. Grab a trash bag and pick up the litter on the block of sidewalk near your home. You'll walk away with a lighter step and a smile, knowing you've done something good.

Dedicate Saturday, October 24 to helping others. The time and effort spent will be more than repaid with the satisfaction and joy of reaching out. Together, our acts of service and assistance to a few can make a difference in the lives of many.

The City of Fremont is accepting registration of new projects and volunteer requests until October 19. You may call (510) 574-2099 or send an email to makeadifferenceday@fremont.gov.

Milpitas will be holding a "Community Get-together" on Saturday, October 24, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Cardoza Park, Kennedy Drive at N. Park Victoria in Milpitas. City officials and representatives from various organizations will be there to give valuable information about available community resources. There will be free blood pressure testing, sugar testing, used eyeglass collection, fingerprinting for children, emergency and 2-1-1 awareness information.

Also, please bring non-perishable food, good clothing and shoes, and bedding to donate to local food pantries and outreach centers.

To participate or volunteer, please contact Leah O. Facun at (408) 272-0302 or leah@consumerresources.com.

Union City volunteers will plant trees, remove graffiti, and work together to improve the appearance of several parks and community centers. To register, visit the city website at www.ci.union-city.ca.us and follow the link to Make a Difference Day. Volunteers are urged to submit their registration form prior to October 15.

Hayward's "Keep Hayward Clean and Green Task Force" will be holding a clean-up event at Schafer Park Elementary School (26268 Flamingo Ave, Hayward), from 8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. A canned food drive and pet adoption through the local Humane Society will also be part of the service at the site.

To view other local projects seeking volunteer assistance, visit the official event website (www.makeadifferenceday.com) and follow the link to the project database.

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