While some students are watching cartoons this Saturday, you could be making a positive impact on the community at one of four locations set up for Western's annual Make a Difference Day.
The volunteer effort is a holiday created by USA Weekend Magazine (a subset of USA Today) in 1980. For the last 18 years the magazine has encouraged a national day of aiding others, celebrated on the fourth Saturday of October. Western has celebrated the festival for the last five years, said New Student Services/Family Outreach (NSSFO) Graduate Assistant Jana Brost. According to USA Weekend Magazine, three million people participated nationwide in 2007.
Students will meet at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25 in front of the VU. Transportation will be provided, admission is free and breakfast will be provided at Bellingham High School. Students should wear clothes they feel comfortable getting dirty.
Of the four locations students will be participating in, Brost is particularly excited about preparing a new home for the Kulshan Community Land Trust.
Kulshan CLT is a company that provides assistance and housing to those with limited economic means. The organization sells the prospective buyer a house while maintaining ownership rights to the property which lowers the cost significantly. In doing this, the housing agreement combines community ownership of land with private ownership of homes, according to their Web site.
“Giving back to needy families is especially important during the current economic woes,” Brost said. She also believes that Western students have a golden opportunity to serve Whatcom County.
“[Make a Difference Day] is a great way to give back to the community as a whole. Western students take up a lot of space in the community, so it's only natural that we give back as much as we're given,” Brost said.
Another of the four volunteer opportunities for students is with the Sean Humphrey House. Established in 1996, the Sean Humphrey House is a non-profit organization located on H Street. Its mission is to raise the quality of life for low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS as well as those who suffer from other diseases and disabilities and are unable to live independently. According to their Web site, they are one of the few adult family homes licensed to provide residence, meals and other services to those afflicted with HIV/AIDS in Washington State. The house's namesake was a 30-year-old man who died of AIDS in 1992.
The work party at the Sean Humphrey House will involve weeding, raking leaves and other lawn care jobs. Volunteers are asked to bring gloves and gardening tools to share if they have them.
To check availability of volunteer spots, go to www.nssfo.wwu.edu or e-mail Brost at jana.brost@wwu.edu.
If you'd like to volunteer but don't want to spend time outdoors, you can fold “Jingle Bell Run” T-shirts for the Arthritis Foundation.
Another opportunity is available to students hoping to earn extra credit in environmental science courses (which most professors permit).
Learning Environment Action Discovery (LEAD), a group linking Western students to their community through environmental service, restoration and education is offering two points of extra credit for a day's worth of labor. Check with your professor first, then log on to LEAD's Web site http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~lead/, and click “Work Parties Schedule” to fill out the form.
In addition to cosponsoring the work party at the Sean Humphrey House, LEAD will be restoring a streamside salmon habitat at Terrell Creek. A BBQ is scheduled at noon to wrap-up the day.
LEAD Co-Director Kimberly Adank hopes that students will feel motivated to bolster Western's reputation around the community by getting their hands dirty on Saturday.
“Students can sign up for work parties and help pull plants and replace them with native plants, or just hang out and play in the dirt,” Adank said. “And there's free food.”
Adank and her fellow Co-Director Stacia Dreyer also encouraged those interested to check out their Web site to get more information about registering for future work parties. Plenty of spots are still available for excursions in November.
Volunteers for Make a Difference Day will assemble in front of the VU at 7:30 a.m. this Saturday. To sign up, log on to either LEAD's Web site: http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~lead/ or the NSSFO Web site: http://www.nssfo.wwu.edu/