Students to “Make a Difference”

“Make a Difference Day” is an annual community service event organized by United Way of Northwest Pennsylvania and will take place this year on Saturday, Oct. 15.
This year’s “Make a Difference Day” will be the first full-scale edition of the event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Community Partner and Liaison for the Bonner Service Program and Office of Community Engagement Kyrié Doniz, ’23.
“Last year and in 2020, many of the usual projects were not able to take place due to the restrictions imposed by (COVID-19),” Doniz said. “This year, we are back to our full scale of projects because people feel comfortable with volunteers entering their space.”
Associate Dean and Director of Community Engagement Colin Hurley said that “Make a Difference Day” is about completing outstanding projects within the community.
Executive Director of United Way of Western Crawford County Marissa Lines discussed the schedule for this year’s “Make a Difference Day.”
“All the volunteers will gather Downtown to be briefed and to have breakfast,” Lines said. “They will also be provided with a bagged lunch and then sorted into their project groups before parting from Diamond Park.”
Although transportation from Diamond Park to project sites — which are dispersed around Crawford County — has been traditionally available, Doniz said that the program agenda this year does not include transportation for volunteers.
Hurley clarified that this does not mean that there will be no way for volunteers to reach their project sites.
“There will be transportation available for Allegheny students but perhaps not enough for every single volunteer,” Hurley said. “Because of the effects of COVID-19, we were unable to estimate how many volunteers will join us so we cannot advertise transportation for everyone. However, I’m sure that everyone will be taken care of on the day.”
Lines explained that volunteers will have a choice of 14 skilled projects and 35 general projects to choose from.
“Skilled projects are things such as construction, carpentry, electrical engineering and technical stuff like that,” Lines said. “General projects include things like raking leaves, painting barns and even destroying buildings that are not being used.”
“Make a Difference Day” is as much a celebration of the community as it is doing service around the community, according to Hurley.
“We have programs on campus, such as the Bonner program, through which Allegheny plays its part in the community daily,” Hurley said. “‘Make a Difference Day’ is more of a celebration of everyone’s continued hard work and an opportunity for exposure to our community.”
Doniz added that “Make a Difference Day” is the main event celebrating community involvement and is done with the intention of “bridging the gap” between Allegheny and the community.
Another ongoing project similar to “Make a Difference Day,” “Service Saturdays,” allows students to do community service throughout the year on different occasions.
Lines said that Allegheny’s collaboration with United Way for “Make a Difference Day” is invaluable.
“Around one-third of our volunteers are always Allegheny students,” Lines said. “Without the college being involved, the event would not reach its true potential.”
Lines has been organizing the event for the past eight years and mentioned that volunteers from Allegheny have been consistent in their involvement.
“Our numbers suffered significantly from (COVID-19), but Allegheny has always been an outlier in terms of community service involvement,” Lines said. “This year is especially exciting as everyone wants to go out and get involved.”
Along with Allegheny, Lines collaborated with the City of Meadville and the Meadville Medical Center to organize this year’s “Make a Difference Day.”

“I met with the organizing committee initially in May to discuss the event,” Lines said. “It is the member organizations of the organizing committee that not only provide volunteers but also the partner organizations which benefit from the volunteers’ service.”
Doniz mentioned that she has been in contact with Lines throughout and since the beginning of the fall semester.
“Although my role is newly created, I have been working with (Lines) even before this year,” Doniz said. “Because of my work in Bonner, I have made connections with community members and organizations which have been useful in organizing Allegheny’s involvement in this year’s event.”
Hurley said that “Make a Difference Day” is a project he has been working on since his first day at Allegheny, although he has observed the event before during a visit to Meadville for Americorps.
“This is my first semester working at Allegheny, although I have been here in the past,” Hurley said. “Since day one, ‘Make a Difference Day’ has been on my radar because of its significance to the college and to the wider community.”
“Make a Difference Day” serves a greater purpose than getting important work done as it promotes an understanding between diverse members of the Crawford County community, according to Hurley.
“For example, if a group of Allegheny students from different parts of the country and the world decided to rake the leaves of a local’s yard, they would get to enter a space they would otherwise never have a chance or reason to do so,” Hurley said.
Hurley believes that “Make a Difference Day” also promotes a sense of communal pride and knowledge across members.
“If you take a step back and think, there is so much to the community around us,” Hurley said. “There are many misconceptions that Allegheny students and community members have about one another that are often proven wrong through collaborative events such as this.”
Although the pandemic has affected this community gathering event in recent years, Doniz hopes that this year’s edition will serve as a catalyst for positive change to come.
“I know that many students on campus are aware and passionate about different issues,” Doniz said. “Let this event be an opportunity and incentive to do something about the things you care deeply about.”