About 850 volunteers turned out across Delaware County to participate in “Make A Difference Day,” the largest single day of volunteering in the country.
Program director Suzanne Pingry and her team at Connections Volunteer Center, which organizes the annual effort, formed partnerships with 17 nonprofits and other groups, including Ohio Wesleyan University.
Volunteers convened early Saturday morning at Camp Lazarus where they received their job assignments and, after grabbing some breakfast, headed out.
Most of the assignments involved outdoor chores at senior residents’ homes. Program manager Colleen Dennis said the number of homes has tripled just in the last two years.
Hundreds of volunteers — like 11-year-old Ostrander resident and Boy Scout Neil Boyles — trimmed bushes, weeded gardens and raked the leaves of 74 senior homeowners across the county.
Unlike previous years, Connections also added volunteer projects for those unable to travel.
“Rather than having seniors come to us for projects, we brought projects to three senior housing facilities and the response was overwhelming,” senior leadership coordinator Melinda Metz said. “One woman started crying because she was so happy to be able to give back.”
Volunteers wrote thank-you cards to military service members and made blankets to benefit My Very Own Blanket, a volunteer organization based in Westerville that provides blankets to children in the foster care system. Students in Buckeye Valley and Dempsey middle schools’ career-based instruction programs also lent helping hands by cleaning out maple syrup sap buckets.
“That was a messy, hard job but they did it with a smile,” said Tina Francis, career-based instruction coordinator at Buckeye Valley Middle School.
Next year will mark Connections’ 10th anniversary Make A Difference Day and Dennis said she’s pushing for 1,000 registered volunteers.
“It gets bigger and bigger every year,” Dennis said. “You feel like you’ve made a difference. … It just feels good.”
Shyla Nott is a freelance writer.