Annual Make a Difference Day has students getting involved around the community

Dean Vaglia, Staff Reporter

Make a Difference Day is a service holiday falling this year on Saturday, Oct. 26, with the goal of getting people to help out and/or give back to local nonprofits however they can. Run by the Office of Student Involvement (OSI), students can get set up with one of 12 nonprofit organizations across southeast Michigan.

The event has been going on for around 10 years, and according to the OSI’s Daryl Blackburn, graduate assistant for leadership and service learning, around 500 members of the OU community take part in volunteering.

Handled by the OSI Leadership and Volunteering Center, a whole day of giving back is arranged for the people taking part. Volunteers arrive at South Foundation Hall at 9 a.m. on Oct. 26 and head out to help out by 10 a.m. Once the volunteers arrive, they do whatever tasks are asked of them until 1 p.m., when they are free to go home.

Students can get involved by signing up through an online GrizzOrgs form. There, people can sign up for their first and second preferred nonprofits, establish any dietary restrictions or special accommodations they need and whether they want to go solo or as a group.  

Going as a group is one of the things Blackburn said is beneficial about helping out.

“Let’s say people did not want to go by themselves,” Blackburn said. “They can sign up with a group of people … If you put down a group name, we make sure that everyone who puts down that same group name goes to the same place.”

Honors College students and teaching assistants are taking part for the HC 1000 class, a required course for all freshmen honors students.

“We believe that being a contributing member of society is essential to a well rounded student,” Karen Conn, HC 1000 adviser, said via email. “Each group is required to do a community service event of their choice, as one of their class requirements. Fourteen of those groups chose OU’s Make a Difference Day, making a total of over 200 Honors College freshmen and others. We have participated in this program for many years and both students and TAs enjoy partnering with OU for these events, which are varied and of significant assistance to groups around the metro area.”

Some opportunities include helping out the Lighthouse of Oakland County emergency shelter in Pontiac, filling buckets for Disaster Relief at Work in Waterford, working in the Open Hands Food Pantry in Royal Oak or even assisting with tasks on campus at OU.

One of the returning options is helping out with a breast cancer walk in Mount Clemens. 

“It was really cool,” the OSI’s Joshua Robinson said about the walk. “It was rainy, but we had a lot of people there. We cheered people on as they did the walk and ran, [and] we went to different stations and gave out water.”

Make a Difference Day 2019 also brings at least one new opportunity: helping out The Parade Company in Detroit. Volunteers will be painting, building and assembling the floats that will be used in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Registration for Make a Difference Day is open up until the morning of Oct. 26. While drop-ins are welcome, signing up allows the OSI to know how many people each nonprofit will be receiving.

“The end goal of Make a Difference Day is to really just service the community in need,” Blackburn said. “A lot of us … might not realize that there are places that need help even in Rochester or Utica or Detroit or Mount Clemens or wherever it may be. They all need help, so the end goal is to really just service these places while giving the students the opportunity to really see the difference that they can make.”