Allegheny students met early at Diamond Park in Meadville last Saturday for Western Crawford County’s 17th annual Make a Difference Day, a national event where people coordinate to lend their neighbors a helping hand in any way they can.
Students roofed and raked, built ramps and installed insulation.
Meadville residents who needed help with a particular project were able to call in a request to United Way, who responded by going to check out the project and confirming that it would be suitable for volunteers.
Make a Difference Day participants realize that they gain more than dirty hands or aching muscles when cleaning up the community.
“The best thing about Make a Difference Day is that it’s a really great opportunity to meet people you would not have met otherwise,” said Jamie Williams, assistant director of community service at ACCEL. “It’s like a Service Saturday, but ten times bigger.”
Students seemed to agree that one of the main highlights of the day is that they get to spend time with other Gators that they haven’t met before.
“I really enjoy connecting with the people that I work with [on Make a Difference Day projects],” said Eric Roginek, ’11.
Roginek has participated in Make a Difference Day every year that he’s been at Allegheny.
“The first year I came with the tennis team, and since then I’ve come with [Delta Tau Delta],” he said.
Although he took part in Make a Difference Day this year for the purpose of fulfilling his fraternity’s service hour requirement, Roginek said he probably would have participated in the day’s events even if he hadn’t needed those hours.
For students who aren’t frequent volunteers, Make a Difference Day also provides a service.
“[Make a Difference Day] is a very easy way to get involved with service.” said Annie Homan, ’13. “It feels good to know that you actually have made a difference in someone else’s life.”
Homan was in charge of organizing Lambda Sigma’s team project, which was to help an elderly Meadville resident pack up and get ready to move out of his house.
The freshman class even broke a record for attendants.
“Ninety people out of the freshman class came for one organization, and that organization was ASG,” said Ben Ho, ’14. “We got 90 students and ten of our senators, and I think it speaks for the character of our class.”
Make a Difference Day volunteers, although excited to help out the community, did face a few setbacks in their different service projects.
One common complaint among volunteers was that some of the projects lacked supervision and appropriate materials.
“Our project definitely needed more supervision,” said Alison McKelvey, ’12, whose group hadn’t known that they would be working on the roof of a two–story house until they got to Diamond Park in the morning.
“We breathed in a lot of toxic fumes [during our project],” said Homan. “Gas masks would have been nice.”
“It was nice to meet people from the community,” said Zeben Ashton, ’12. “But our supervisor was not an experienced contractor — he was a retired Spanish teacher.”
Ashton’s group’s project was to insulate and replace the ceiling of a house.
In other instances, coordinators were quick to respond to groups’ needs, like when both of the drills in Ashton’s group died, and volunteers from the United Way brought them a new one.
Despite the minor roadblocks, students enjoyed the mutually beneficial service opportunities.
“You learn a lot about the needs of people,” said Susan Lambert, who spent her last day working for United Way.