Making a difference, rain or shine

Allegheny students join Meadville community to volunteer

Members of the greater Meadville community gather under and around the gazebo in Diamond Park on Oct. 16 prior to volunteering.

Rainy weather was not enough to stop a turnout of volunteers on Saturday, Oct. 16, in Diamond Park for Allegheny College’s annual Make a Difference Day.

Volunteer groups and individual volunteers alike met in the park for a light breakfast, checked in at the gazebo, and received the supplies they would need for their specific site, including a volunteer t-shirt.

Make a Difference Day is not just a local event, as a similar day of service has taken place across the nation on the fourth Saturday in October every year since 1992.The premise, however, is still the same — to get out in the community and help out however possible.

Were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, this would have been the college’s 28th annual Make a Difference Day. The event is a partnership with the United Way of Western Crawford County and is spearheaded by the Office of Civic Engagement, which also heads the monthly Service Saturday. In past years, efforts on Meadville’s Make a Difference Day have led to a fresh paint job at the Meadville Children’s Center and the installation of a new ramp at a Meadville resident’s home.

Community members and Allegheny students got up early to work together on over 100 service projects around the county, doing everything from yard maintenance at the Emmanuel United Church to ramp repair at the Crawford County Housing Coalition Emergency Shelter to yard cleanup for a local senior. Allegheny students lending a helping hand included members of the women’s lacrosse team, Phi Delta Theta, the sophomore honor society Lambda Sigma and Allegheny Student Government.

At the emergency shelter, both students and community members sanded wood planks for the ramp and placed these planks where they needed to go on the ramp. Other volunteers could be found raking the parking lot and weeding around the shelter to clean up the space.

“We’ve known the ramp needed fixed for a little while now,” said Ashlyne Lawrence, ’20, who helped supervise this site. “We house homeless families and individuals, and they stay in here until they can find permanent housing. At the top we have affordable units that we rent out to (Crawford County Mental Health Awareness Program) for people who have mental health disorders.”

Another service project going on was gardening in DeArment Park. Danuta Majchrowicz, former director of International Programs and Services at Allegheny and one of the three current master gardeners, provided a rundown of the various activities taking place at this site.

“Underneath the plants and underneath the mulch, there’s a layer of plastic to stop the weeds, so we need to pull that plastic together so the mulch gets dumped in the middle,” Majchrowicz said. “(Irrigation lines) have to be lifted up and cut and tied off at the water manifolds. We leave the grasses in the winter.”

According to Majchrowicz, there are four main entities involved in the garden: the master gardeners, who put in and take out the plants; the city of Meadville, which provides mowing, water and tree care; Channellock, which supplies the money for the plants; and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which provides the plants themselves.

Linda Gleeson, a community member volunteer at the park, detailed a special purpose she and other Meadville residents have for the celosias.

“I take these (celosias) home and dry them,” Gleeson said. “I hang them all in my barn …We use other dried things — pinecone, milkweed pods — and some of these things we spray paint, some we leave natural.”

In the wintertime, the celosias will join plastic bulbs and these other dried items on live Christmas trees to be displayed at such events as Light-Up Night. Gleeson hopes that these Christmas trees will inspire Allegheny students to take more frequent trips into Meadville and become more engaged with the greater community.

Those overseeing the sites are appreciative of the students and community members who volunteer their time, pointing to them as the reason that this day has been known to be a success.

“They walk on water, according to us,” Majchrowicz said.