2017 Award Winners

Delaware County Make A Difference Day — Delaware County, OH

All-Star Winner

All-Star Winner — Despite near freezing temperatures and an icy rain on October 28, 2017, more than 400 volunteers turned out for the annual “Delaware County Make A Difference Day,” organized by Connections Volunteer Center. The county-wide Make A Difference Day project took on much needed outdoor chores for senior homemakers in their community, including leaf raking, window washing, hedge trimming, garden clean-up and much more. These intrepid volunteers logged more than 1,150 hours of service to help 53 senior neighbors to help them maintain their independence. The Delaware County story comes full circle when many older adult volunteers take on leadership roles in the community project. After their All Star win, organizers vow to invest their $10,000 grant back into their community.

#Dare2TuTu — Truckee, CA

Award Winner

What do a cop, a firefighter, an 18-wheel truck, a horse and 80 human volunteers have in common? They all wore pink tutus as part of The Auto & Tire Doctor’s Make A Difference Day challenge. Inspired by Bob and Linda Carey in New Jersey, these creative thinkers in California put tutus to good use, even setting a Guinness World Record by wrapping the 18-wheeler with its own 267-foot tutu. All of this was to support the Carey Foundation, which helps with expenses for breast cancer patients, like assistance with child care and transportation to and from treatment for breast cancer. The #Dare2TuTu team’s $10,000 check goes directly to helping more patients in the community of cancer through the Carey Foundation.

McKinney Make A Difference Day — McKinney, TX

Award Winner

To celebrate their 19th Make A Difference Day, McKinney organizers released some advance promotion – Spend the Day Being Part of Something BIGGER THAN YOURSELF! – which really worked. Seven hundred volunteers showed up for 23 projects through McKinney, benefiting nearly 20 local nonprofit service organizations. The impact their Make A Difference Day has had on this community, a suburb of Dallas, was Texas-sized, touching the lives of more than 100,000 people. Volunteers helped foster children and the families who foster and adopt them; created blankets for those undergoing treatment for breast cancer; collected and filled hundreds of “kit bags” with necessities for everyone from babies to retirees; created “heavy blankets” to provide comfort to anxious kids; and taught gardening techniques to those ready to learn.

Like a Girl – Empowerment Boot Camp — Lincoln, NE

Award Winner

On October 28, 2017 a group of high school girls worked together to empower girls in their local community. They wrote a curriculum for elementary and middle school programs addressing bullying and gender issues and focusing on building confidence. On Make A Difference Day, the team, which consisted of 20 volunteers, hosted an event called the “Like a Girl — Empowerment Boot Camp” for 50 “K-8” girls living in the downtown Lincoln, NE community. They partnered with the local Salvation Army, which provided its downtown building. The $10,000 grant that this project won will be given to the Lincoln Division of the Salvation Army to continue similar projects. When asked “What empowers you?” one participant of the October 28th Girl Empowerment Boot Camp replied, “Being here today.”

FreeBikes4Kidz — Minneapolis, MN

Award Winner

More than 75 volunteers – including teen boys from a correctional school near Minneapolis – with FreeBikes4Kidz worked to clean and/or ready 338 bikes for later refurbishment and giveaway to local kids in need for a total of 225 hours on Make A Difference Day. The successful October day ended with 138 refurbished bikes and another 200 cleaned and ready to be refurbished in time to make a child’s holiday a little brighter.

‘Mitzvah Day’ — Columbia, SC

Award Winner

In a city with a Jewish population of less than 3%, two synagogues teamed up for “Mitzvah Day,” to bring 150 congregants of all ages together to volunteer for about a dozen different projects. They fed homeless people in a halfway house and a city park, they knitted caps for premature babies in local hospitals, made blankets and “blessing bags” for kids and adults in transition, planted trees and cleaned grounds at a state park, and organized donations to a local Christian service agency.

Wenatchee Valley Make A Difference Day — Wenatchee, WA

Award Winner

Wenatchee, WA, has been organizing Make A Difference Day projects since its first year, in 1992. Now they attract an estimated 8,000 volunteers for hundreds of activities, encouraged to turn out by the town’s Make A Difference Day slogan: “See a need. Do a Good Deed.” Projects ranged from a local doctor – a heart transplant recipient himself – encouraging people to become organ donors, lawyers providing services for a “Veterans Will Clinic,” kids of all ages (including senior citizens!) collecting warm clothing for kids in need and organizing a flag football game, raising $1,700 to assist flood victims in Houston and more.

Made for More — Auburn, AL

Award Winner

Alabama Rural Ministry and an Auburn University-based nondenominational Christian volunteer group focused on their larger community by repairing the homes of their region’s neediest neighbors. One in three residents in neighboring Macon County, AL, live below the poverty line, including more than 44% of children under the age of 18 and one in four seniors. For 2017 MDDAY, about 175 volunteers from local churches, Auburn University’s swim team and a student general contractors’ group made repairs for 14 homeowners, frequently fixing the mistakes of unlicensed handymen or completing work that was never finished. Their work continued on a formerly abandoned home in process of being converted into low-income housing for two U.S. military veterans.

Learn, Love, Teach – State of Florida

Award Winner

Across the state of Florida aspiring teachers from college campuses collected, packed and delivered 300 backpacks and supplies, complete with handwritten notes of encouragement, to children displaced by hurricanes that hit both Florida and Puerto Rico. But it didn’t stop there. These student teachers inspired professional educators attending the state convention in Orlando to collect nonperishable food, baby and cleaning supplies for a rural migrant farming community bordering the Everglades devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Hilton/Parma Make A Difference Day — Hilton, NY

Award Winner

More than 250 volunteers in the village of Hilton, NY – that’s nearly 1/5 of the population of this “little town with a big heart” – turned out to complete 15 projects impacting about 1,000 residents. Schools, civic groups and churches collected 300 pounds of food for the local food bank, 130 boxes of winter clothing for distribution to those in need, and 14,000 pounds of electronics for recycling. In their biggest community-wide blood drive ever, organizers even connected with 27 first-time donors. Volunteers also cleaned up yards, parks and neighborhoods and visited and made crafts with and for residents in a senior living home. Mayor Joe Lee summed up their Make A Difference Day: “It’s not one organization running the show, it’s everybody working together.”

Chipping for Charity — Ocean Isle Beach, NC

Award Winner

In its inaugural Make A Difference Day effort, residents of this golf community of 150 seniors thought outside the box for a way to make an impact in their “county of contradictions.” While it’s a haven for retirees, nearly half of Brunswick County’s residents live below the poverty level and are mostly under the age of 35. And it has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. Organizer and volunteer enthusiast George Briggs says, “everyone has the power to do something to improve the life of another person.” He and the volunteers collected $12,000 worth of stray golf balls, and another $8,000 worth of sport clothing and golf equipment. They cleaned and sorted all 26,000 golf balls and the clothing, then delivered boxes of goods to thrift stores in their county.

Trumbull County Make A Difference Day — Trumbull County, OH

Award Winner

For 15 years, hundreds of volunteers, both adults and children of all ages, fan out around Trumbull County to make a difference in the lives of their community. Like many former industrial regions, this corner of Appalachia has modern challenges, including a graying population, fewer jobs, rising poverty and an opioid epidemic. Many of the 75 projects that volunteers tackled on Make A Difference Day reflect an investment in rising up to take on these community challenges. They restocked food pantries, repaired and painted homes, planted gardens, collected winter gear for needy school children, served lunch for their homeless neighbors, hung 60 American flags on bridges spanning a local highway to honor veterans and so much more.

Pittsburgh Champions Make A Difference — Pittsburgh, PA

Award Winner

United Steel Workers Union in Pittsburgh, PA, partnered with Highmark Health on three projects designed to help local kids: collecting and assembling 1,000 art kits filled with paint and other activities for young patients at Allegheny General Hospital, a tractor trailer filled with diapers for needy families, including those impacted by hurricanes in far-away Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Texas, and 300 kid-friendly toiletry bags for kids living in area homeless and domestic violence shelters.

StreamTeam — Battle Ground, WA

Award Winner

Near Vancouver, WA, a team of environmental activists has a mission: to restore streams. What sets them apart is that they are part of a public entity. Meet Clark County Public Utility’s “StreamTeam.” With just one paid employee from the utility and six AmeriCorps staffers, “StreamTeam” mobilizes about 1,000 volunteers through the year to tend streams and plant trees from their onsite nursery with the intent of improving air and water quality and check erosion. Their planting season starts with Make A Difference Day and concludes with Earth Day in April. On Oct. 28, 200 volunteers launched “StreamTeam’s” 25th season by planting 850 native trees near a stream on privately owned property. Says organizer Ashley King: “The volunteers reflect our community. They are all ages, some families brought babies on carriers.”

Bill Librizzi2017 Award Winners