Oct. 23

6 Service Projects That Made a Big Difference for the Community

Recognizing extraordinary Make A Difference Day project leaders and volunteers
University of Pittsburgh students volunteer at the EastField Co-operative Garden, one of about 100 service projects organized by PittServes for Make A Difference Day 2016.

Make A Difference Day is one of the largest annual single-days of service nationwide, bringing together tens of thousands of volunteers across the country on the fourth Saturday in October – united with a common mission to improve the lives of others through community-driven service projects. For more than two decades, Points of Light has partnered with TEGNA to help mobilize volunteers on this day, and celebrate the power of people to make a difference. And each year, TEGNA recognizes 14 outstanding leaders of Make A Difference Day projects, awarding $140,000 in grants that are donated to the charities related to the winning projects. As we prepare for Make A Difference Day 2017, Points of Light is recognizing these extraordinary difference makers with Daily Point of Light Awards.

Meet some of these inspiring honorees:

150 Volunteers Bag 37,000 Pounds of Potatoes to Help Hungry Families

Pineville United Methodist Church

On a Saturday morning in October, in a church parking lot in Pineville, North Carolina – a small town where nearly 30 percent of families live below the poverty line – a tractor trailer dumped 37,000 pounds of potatoes. The Pineville United Methodist Church had partnered with the local chapter of Society of St. Andrew, a national program that collects excess produce from American farms to help feed the hungry, to glean the potatoes from the fields of local farms the week before. And on that Saturday – Make A Difference Day 2016 – 150 community volunteers of all ages came together in that parking lot to bag the spuds in 10-pound sacks and deliver them to local families, area schools, food banks and soup kitchens.

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Heart and Sole: Martial Arts Teacher Rallies Community to Collect Shoes and Rain Boots for Kids in Need

Farshad Azad Gimme Some Sole

Each year, Farshad Azad meets with 29 public school principals, representing nearly 14,000 students in Chico, California, to see what the kids need most. The answer last year: shoes. Farshad responded with a month-long donation drive – called “Gimme Some Sole” – to collect new and gently used shoes and rain boots for children from low-income families, whose flip flops, beat-up sandals and hand-me-down shoes would offer no protection or warmth from cold and rainy winter weather. He recruited students from his Azad’s Martial Arts Center to participate, along with their family and friends, members of the community, and worked out a partnership with the local Payless Shoe Source. The initiative included Make A Difference Day 2016, when more than 50 pairs of shoes and rain boots were donated in a single day. In the end, shoes and rain boots were donated to local elementary school students and homeless children.

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Garden Pool Volunteers Stock Public "Seed Library" to Promote Food Sustainability

Bok choy, collards, eggplant, fennel, kale, spinach and squash – just a few of a wealth of seed options made available to Maricopa County residents, thanks to “seed libraries” stocked by volunteers in Mesa, Arizona. Garden Pool, a nonprofit dedicated to research and education on sustainable ways to grow food, recruited 50 volunteers who came together on Make A Difference Day 2016 to pack nearly 4,000 seed packets to restock three public seed libraries. Local residents can “check out” the seed packets using their library cards, then return seeds saved from their harvests. Students from Arizona State University joined local middle school students and community volunteers to pack 60 varieties of seeds, supplied by organic farm distributors as well as Garden Pool’s own crops.

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5,000 University of Pittsburgh Volunteers Make A Difference in the Surrounding Community

PittServes at the University of Pittsburgh

Steady rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of more than 5,000 volunteers at the University of Pittsburgh, who came together on Make A Difference Day 2016 to engage in service projects across the ethnically and economically diverse city of Pittsburgh. What started as a small student-run project nearly a decade ago has grown into an annual, multi-campus event coordinated by PittServes – a university-wide initiative that each year engages students in hundreds of thousands of hours of service to the surrounding communities. On Pitt Make A Difference Day, or PMADD, PittServes organizes a variety projects aimed at improving the lives and neighborhoods of some of the most vulnerable residents in this iconic city, long associated with the once flourishing steel industry. In 2016, students, staff and faculty participated in more than 100 projects, dedicating more than 20,000 combined hours of service that benefitted the local community and more than 1,000 residents.

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Limb Loss Support Group Collects Socks for the Homeless to Help Prevent Frostbite and Amputations

Moving Forward Limb Loss Support Group

To most of us, socks are a basic item we don’t give much thought to. But to a homeless person, a good pair of socks is a luxury item. On Make A Difference Day, the members of the Moving Forward Limb Loss Support Group organized a sock drive to benefit the homeless population in their community, counted at more than 6,000 people, including 1,200 children. At the end of the day, the group had collected 864 pairs of socks to be donated to the local Salvation Army – doubling their collection from the previous year! As part of its mission, the Moving Forward group, based at Southern Indiana Rehabilitation Hospital, works to help prevent amputations. In homeless populations, frostbite is a major concern and is the leading cause of amputation. With winter coming, the sock drive seemed like a perfect way for the group’s members to offer their support.

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Habitat for Humanity Volunteers Come Together to Repair Homes, Build Community Spirit

Habitat for Humanity of Dutchess County

Volunteers with Habitat for Humanity are driven by the belief that everyone deserves – and needs – a decent, affordable place to live. On Make A Difference Day 2016, the Dutchess County Habitat for Humanity team partnered with Thrivent Financial to recruit 160 community volunteers who tackled 20 much-needed home repair projects in neighborhoods in need. Despite the cold and rainy weather, volunteers worked on tasks ranging from simple yard cleanup and fence and porch repair, to rebuilding the entire front porch and stairs of one home. “The tangible differences in the neighborhoods are extraordinary,” said longtime Habitat volunteer Barb Adams. Afterwards, neighbors and volunteers joined together for a community lunch donated by local restaurants.

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Points of Light is thrilled to once again join TEGNA, as well as the Arby’s Foundation, to inspire community action and celebrate the power of people to make a difference. Volunteers across the nation will come together on Saturday, Oct. 28, to improve their communities for Make A Difference Day. Project organizers are encouraged to register at to be eligible to win a $10,000 grant to donate to a charity related to their Make A Difference Day project.

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