Today, we celebrated 13 inspiring volunteer stories at the 2012 Make A Difference Day Awards in Washington, D.C. These awards, presented in partnership with USA WEEKEND and Newman’s Own, highlight the power of individuals to create change across geographies and generations.
For more than two decades, Points of Light has partnered with USA WEEKEND to sponsor Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of community service. It is a wonderful illustration of the American ideal of helping our neighbors in ordinary and extraordinary ways.
Each year on the fourth Saturday in October, Points of Light helps mobilize millions of Americans, young and old, to put their personal cares aside to tend to the needs of others. From those millions, the Make A Difference Day Award winners are selected for their leadership and service, which has not only created positive change in their communities, but also transformed their own lives for the better.
The event celebrated the best of our national spirit of service from across the country, ranging in age from school children to grandparents, proving that incredible things are possible when people unite to create change.
The event’s keynote speaker, actor and musician Kevin Bacon, shared his experience founding SixDegrees.org, a website that builds on the popularity of the “small world phenomenon” to create a charitable social network and inspire giving to charities online. He started the network with celebrities by highlighting their favorite charities, and he encourages everyone to be celebrities for their own causes by joining the Six Degrees movement.
Each of the 13 Make A Difference honorees received a $10,000 donation for charity from Newman’s Own. Honorees included:
Summer Search North Bay, Petaluma, Calif.
Fifty-five youth from Summer Search North Bay, which strives to develop leadership potential of promising low-income high school students, constructed a fence around a community garden, planned children’s activities, cleaned the grounds of an area high school and restored trails at a local forest preserve.
The United Way of Lake County, Waukegan, Ill.
A community joined forces with Bears Care, the charitable arm of the Chicago Bears and a local elementary school with an exceptionally high rate of physically disabled youth to build an accessible playground so all students can join their friends at recess.
The Marys & Marthas and the people of Clarion, Iowa
A group of church ladies, known as the Marys and Marthas, united their three-stoplight town, from preschoolers to elders, through hundreds of acts of kindness to mark its 10th year of participation in Make A Difference Day to create positive change in the community.
Girl Scouts of Madisonville Housing Authority Troop 333, Madisonville, Ky.
Local Girl Scouts used cookie sale proceeds to buy, decorate and hand deliver 450 greeting cards to nursing home residents. More importantly, they delivered smiles, friendship and a reminder to their elders that they are not forgotten.
Mary Vail, Las Vegas, Nev.
Mary Vail, 55, stepped in to fill a big void felt by the local Salvation Army as a result of Las Vegas’ recession. Vail’s annual supermarket food drive has collected 22.3 tons of food and toiletries since its inception 13 years ago, proving the city is more than a vacation hot spot.
Victory Christian Church, Albany, N.Y.
Victory Christian Church believes a city’s appearance is directly linked to the safety and well-being of a community. In order to keep the community in premier shape, the church celebrated its seventh Make A Difference Day by creating a “tool library,” complete with hammers, rakes, saws and more.
Joyce and John Jackson, Delaware, Ohio
Grandparents John and Joyce Jackson believe passing down the spirit of volunteerism is one of the most important things they’ll leave their grandchildren. For the second time, they spent Make A Difference Day collecting food with their granddaughter, enough to feed four families for three weeks.
Neha Gupta, Yardley, Penn.
A trip to India inspired Neha Gupta, 15, to start a nonprofit abroad and organize a local project for a diverse and incredibly poor intermediate school in her community. Thanks to Gupta and a group of volunteers, the school now boasts a library with more than 3,000 titles for the students to enjoy.
Eleanor Schoenbrun, El Paso, Texas
Eleanor Schoenbrun’s passion for homeless animals led her to spend Make A Difference Day in the hot sun of a parking lot collecting coins to save her abandoned, four-legged friends. The 8-year-old helped raise more than $2,705 for the Animal Rescue League of El Paso.
The Ellis Family, Rhinelander, Wis.
The Ellis family keeps their late daughter’s memory alive by raising money for their local Ronald McDonald House. Their efforts not only help others in the community facing similar hardships, but also keep Ashley a part of their lives after cancer took her at only 2-years-old.
The three 2012 City Award honorees included:
The Jersey City Parks Coalition and Jersey City, N.J.
The Jersey City Parks Coalition, with the support of three city agencies and more than 600 volunteers, planted bulbs on Make A Difference Day. Eighteen thousand yellow, red and orange daffodil and tulips brighten up 80 sites in the community.
City of Salisbury, N.C.
To celebrate its first Make A Difference Day, Salisbury’s Community Appearance Commission united more than 85 volunteers, including the mayor, a college track team, Girl Scouts and more, to paint houses, install fences and plant trees to beautify two neglected blocks of historic district.
Strong Neighborhoods Program, San Jose, Calif.
Strong Neighborhoods, a neighborhood revitalization program, led America’s 10th largest city in a cleanup blitz on Make A Difference Day. Approximately 160 volunteers, most of them under age 18, filled 48 trash bags and covered 708 graffiti tags.
The awards ceremony is a great reminder of the incredible acts of service creating positive change in our country as we set our sights on Make A Difference Day 2012, celebrated on Saturday, Oct. 27. It is a symbolic demonstration of the power of voluntary action – which we celebrate during this National Volunteer Week.
Make A Difference Day, the nation’s largest day of service was created in 1992 by Gannett Co., Inc.’s USA WEEKEND Magazine along with Newman’s Own and Points of Light. For more information, please go vist the Make A Difference Day website.
CEO Points of Light