WALLA WALLA, Wash. - About 150 members of the Whitman College community will scatter throughout Walla Walla this Saturday, Oct. 25, to celebrate "Make A Difference Day" by volunteering with a variety of community service projects.

Now in its 12th year, Make A Difference Day has evolved into the largest community service effort in the nation. A record three million Americans participated a year ago.

Recent Make A Difference Day work parties for Whitman's students have included decorative painting on one of the exterior walls at the Walla Walla Public Library.

At Whitman, the Center for Community Service (CCS) serves as a clearinghouse for students, staff and faculty who lend a hand each year on Make A Difference Day. Whitman work parties have been assigned to about 20 projects around town.

Some of the students volunteering on Saturday have enlisted the help of family members. This Saturday and Sunday is also Family Weekend at Whitman.

One of Whitman's largest groups, about 27 students and family members, is headed to Fort Walla Walla Park to help with restoration of the native riparian habitat along Garrison Creek. As part of a larger project spearheaded by a local citizens group, the Walla Walla Backyard Stream Team, Saturday's work will focus on removal of non-native blackberry plants that have all but eliminated native plants along the creek.

Students mobilizing for Saturday's blackberry blitzkrieg are members of Whitman's Campus Greens chapter, which organized two years ago as part of the national organization dedicated to building a broad-based political movement on college and high school campuses.

Volunteering at Fort Walla Walla Park is nothing new for Whitman's Campus Greens. During last year's Make A Difference Day, students helped clean a portion of the park known as the "jungle," due to its thick vegetation.

Earlier this year, the group returned to clean the creek's riparian area, notes Erin Guthrie, a Whitman junior and Campus Greens board member. That work set the stage for a series of plant assessments taken by Guthrie and other students in a Whitman class on the "Psychology of Environmental Problems."

The Walla Walla Backyard Stream Team, organized through the city of Walla Walla and funded by the Washington State Department of Ecology, is part of a much larger effort to preserve and enhance water quality in the local watershed. Because it involves work adjacent to a stream of water, Saturday's removal of blackberry plants along Garrison Creek will be done in keeping with a permit from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Another group of Whitman students is headed Saturday to Blue Ridge Elementary School, where they will paint the English and Spanish alphabets in the hallway leading to the Headstart program.

Robert Withycombe and Robert Sickels, faculty members in Whitman's Rhetoric and Film Studies Department, will work with a group of their students at a local Habitat for Humanity low-income housing project.

Other Whitman students are slated for work details at several local sites, including the Children's Home Society, Walla Walla Community Hospice, First Congregational Church, Salvation Army, Kirkman House Museum, and the Odd Fellows Home.

Rebecca Sickels, coordinator of the Center for Community Service, organized Whitman's Make A Difference Day effort with the help of three student interns - Jo Nissenbaum, Emily Rae and Lauren McCune. Other CCS interns planning to volunteer Saturday are Whitney Blackman, Chris Brewer, Becky Burand, Laura Davis and Debbie Nelson.

All volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. Saturday at Jewett Residence Hall for a complimentary breakfast.

CONTACT: Dave Holden, Whitman News Service
509 527-5902; Email: holden@whitman.edu