Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of community service. Held annually the fourth Saturday of October, Make A Difference Day is sponsored by “USA Weekend” and Hands On Network, a business unit of Points of Light Institute.
Through the years, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland has spearheaded the observance, encouraging individuals, organizations, club and churches to participate.
“Cleveland has been participating in Make a Difference Day for over 15 years, setting aside a day to ‘do something good for someone else,’” the Cleveland mayor said. “Through the years, projects have ranged from simple acts like helping a senior citizen with lawn care (to) cleaning projects, installing wheelchair ramps and picking up litter, to name only a few.”
He added, “Many of us could probably just look out our front or back door and see something that needs attention — a neighbor who could use a visit or a helping hand or perhaps a street or lawn that needs debris removed.”
In Cleveland, these past few weeks have seen several projects in the planning stages with many to be completed by Saturday.
“This weekend the 79th Habitat for Humanity home is expected to be completed through the generosity of employees at Whirlpool,” Rowland said. “Habitat and Whirlpool employee volunteers partnered for a 20-day Blitz Build that will be a new home for a deserving Cleveland family.”
Another project that has added beauty to the community is the work of artist Jane Galay who took her talents and created artwork in local public housing neighborhoods, the Greenway and university areas. One of those projects was adding lively art to a dumpster in one of the housing communities.
Calling her project “See Clean & Green,” she networked with local artists and created a project to offer a healthier and cleaner perspective to neighborhoods. One project was turning a Dumpster into a “Dreamster” in a local neighborhood on Gaut Street. She’s one of the people “making a difference” this weekend, Rowland said.
Also this weekend, hundreds of Lee University students will be fanning out from the campus to perform public service throughout the area. This includes visits to nursing homes and shut-ins and just doing little things for people who might be lonely. Many other acts of kindness will be offered by the students.
Another project was completed when Whirlpool Cleveland Division coordinated a “day of caring” for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, helping to landscape the facility and give it a fresher, well-manicured look.
Exclusive Shelter Pets will host a special “ESP Shelter Pet Appreciation Day” Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Cleveland Animal Shelter. Sue Little reports the day will be set aside to promote adoptions of shelter pets which is the top priority of the ESP organization along with its continuous humane education program. This group is celebrating its 20th year in this endeavor and making it a “Make a Difference Day” observance.
Rowland mentioned one ongoing Make a Difference project that began when he was a patient at Life Care after a traffic crash in May.
“During this time, I met a man named Check Officer who was a patient and was preparing to go home after many weeks of rehabilitation following surgery,” the mayor explained. “During the home visit, therapists discovered his home did not meet the safety standards to return home.”
Rowland overheard the situation during a physical therapy session and he made a call to Mount Olive Ministries.
A team of members led by David May III came to inspect the Officer home. Life Care’s Therapy Department, along with Lee University volunteers from the Service-Learning Center, began to visit and to take food, clothing and cleaning supplies.
The group effort was supported by Tina Bishop, Bradley County building inspector, who had already been aware of the condition of the home due to prior inspections.
“Tina went above and beyond to help with volunteers as they began a project to bring the home up to building code and to make it more livable for Check,” Rowland said.
“This has been a Make a Difference work in progress as so many in the community came together to offer their talents and their caring,” he noted. “This home is special to Check Officer. He built this home 55 years ago. Then a series of events, including a bout with cancer, prevented him for caring for it as he had in the past. Today, his home is being restored for his safety and there are many people who came together to make a difference in his life and in his neighborhood.”
Rowland said communities around the country are taking Saturday to Make a Difference and Cleveland is one of those cities.
“One project I am taking a personal interest in this year is to encourage people to consider becoming an organ donor,” the mayor offered. “I talk about this often with people I meet and it is always amazing how organ donation has affected so many lives. I have so many friends who are alive today because someone donated an organ. There are many people waiting on donations and tissue.”
In fact, there are more than 95,000 people on a waiting list for lifesaving transplants. Cleveland is part of the Chattanooga Donor Services which include 14 counties in Southeast Tennessee: Bledsoe, Bradley, Coffee, Franklin, Grundy, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Moore, Polk, Rhea and Sequatchie counties.
Rowland said the Chattanooga director is a former Clevelander, Dawn Guthrie Benjamin, who coordinates these services between families and donors. Her office coordinates recovery for organ and tissue recovery services to 25 area hospitals.
“Dawn is a former Clevelander and a former Cleveland Daily Banner employee,” he said. “She can be reached by calling her office at 423-756-5736 or e-mailing her at email@example.com.
Rowland added, “Donna Simpson does an excellent job at the Bradley County Courthouse as she takes part in the organ donation program that is done at the time of driver’s license renewals.”
At renewal time, people are asked to mark “Yes” to organ donation each time they renew or make changes to a driver’s license. This assures that their names remain on the Tennessee Donor Registry.
“If you do not indicate ‘Yes’ to organ donation on your driver’s license renewal, your name will be removed from the Registry,” Rowland reminded. “Becoming an organ, eye and tissue donor truly shares life with others. By putting your name on the Donate Life Tennessee Organ and Tissue Donor Registry, you consent to having your organs and tissue made available for transplantation upon your death.”
Examples of organs for lifesaving transplants include heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, lungs and small bowel. Examples of tissues that could save or enhance someone’s life include eyes/corneas, heart valves, bones and skin grafts.
The Make a Difference Day project offers cash rewards up to $10,000 for those who qualify.
The cash reward is provided through the Paul Newman Foundation called Newman’s Own.
More information about the awards can be found on the “Make a Difference Day” website or in the Cleveland Daily Banner’s “USA Weekend” editions.
Rowland asked that anyone doing a special project Saturday call his office next week at 476-8931 and report on the project, number of volunteers and number of hours. His office will then submit the Cleveland projects to the National Make a Difference Day organization.