WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- As many as 200 Whitman College students, staff and faculty will join millions of fellow Americans this Saturday, Oct. 26, in celebrating "Make A Difference Day" by doing volunteer projects to improve their communities and help neighbors in need.
Now in its 11th year, Make A Difference Day has evolved into the largest community service effort in the nation. A record 2.2 million Americans participated a year ago.
At Whitman, the Center for Community Service (CCS) serves as a clearing house for students, staff and faculty who want to lend a hand on Make A Difference Day.
CCS coordinator Rebecca Sickels and one of her student interns, Amanda Remington, are registering volunteers this week for a total of 16 service projects. A registration table is open during the noon hour each day in the Reid Campus Center. Members of the Whitman community can also register by contacting Sickels directly, either by phone (527-5765) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
"We still have a bunch of volunteer opportunities open for Saturday," Sickels said. "Students can volunteer individually, or student groups are welcome to register as a unit."
As of Tuesday morning, about 100 students had registered, Sickels said. She hopes that number will double by week's end. And because Whitman is hosting its annual Family Weekend this Friday through Sunday, Sickels is encouraging participating students to involve their parents and families in Saturday's Make A Difference Day projects.
"Most of our service projects Saturday will be off campus," Sickels said. "If parents want to help, it will be a great way for them to gain a better understanding of the Walla Walla community that is home to their sons and daughters during the academic year."
Service projects in need of help Saturday range from ongoing construction of a house for a low-income family -- a Habitat for Humanity project -- to helping with landscaping and playground improvements at the Walla Walla Public Schools Child Development Center.
"We also need volunteer drivers and vehicles to help us get our volunteers to and from the project sites," Sickels said.
Remington is one of seven student interns assisting Sickels as she arranges volunteer opportunities throughout the school year. Other interns, each of whom will be serving as a project leader on Saturday, are Whitney Blackman, Eric McWhorter, Andrew Moore, Jo Nissenbaum, Emily Rae and Shelby Ruiz.
Some student groups, including the Young Republicans and the Black Student Union, are helping with different projects, Sickels said. "We also have some of the sororities and fraternities helping, which is great."
Before scattering to their various projects on Saturday, Whitman volunteers will gather for a complimentary breakfast at 8:30 a.m. in the Jewett Dining Hall. Volunteers will also receive a free Center for Community Service t-shirt, the back of which is inscribed with three words -- Kindness, Courage and Goodwill. The same words appear in Chinese characters on the front of the shirts.
The Center for Commmunity Service will also host a charity rummage sale on Saturday in the Reid Center parking lot (34 Boyer Avenue) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Items on sale will range from a snowboard with boots and bindings to a computer printer and a clothes dryer. All proceeds from the sale will benefit Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, a non-profit, community-based organization that provides assistance and support to persons infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
Make A Difference Day is one of many volunteer efforts coordinated during the school year by Sickels and her staff of student interns in the Center for Community Service. A number of Service Saturday projects, for example, are organized using the same format as Make A Difference Day. "The scale is smaller and number of projects fewer, but the idea of spending a day to help others is the same," Sickels said.