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Make A Difference Day Awards Highlight National Service Projects

by Greg Tucker

Every October, millions of people across the nation volunteer their time during Make A Difference Day to make their communities better places to live. This week, 10 projects and three cities will be honored with Make A Difference Awards, and several national service participants – including two AmeriCorps members – will be recognized.

The event is sponsored by USA Weekend magazine and its 800 carrier newspapers. Each of the winners will receive a $10,000 donation to a charity of their choice and were recognized in the April 19-21 issue of USA Weekend.

Two AmeriCorps members were selected for their projects:

  • Christina Escobar, an AmeriCorps member serving with the Red Cross in Ellensburg, WA, was recognized for developing Operation Lorax, which enlisted community members to plant 1,000 Ponderosa pine seedlings to help restore part of forest destroyed by a fire that burned 23,000 acres. Members of the Washington Conservation Corps helped project participants, half of whom were children, as they hiked through mud and ash to do the planting.
  • Shaquawana Wester, an AmeriCorps member who serves with the Cookeville Housing Authority's Teens Need Training program in Cookeville, TN, noticed that many of the kids she worked with wore little more than a light jacket in the winter. Memories of standing in line at a coat drive led her to create one in the area that collected 1,000 winter coats. After volunteers washed and repaired the garments, 200 coats were given away and the 800 remaining were donated to a rescue mission and a mobile clothing unit.

Two of the cities with mayors that participated in the Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service will also be receiving Make A Difference Day Awards.

  • Mayor Richard Berry of Albuquerque, NM, is being recognized for a project that used 41 volunteers to scrub graffiti off boulders, plant shrubs to fight erosion, and clean up trash at Piedra Lisa Canyon. The project was led the city's Open Space Division and the non-profit Nicodemus Wilderness Project.
  • Mayor Don Patterson of Kettering, Ohio, kicked off a Cities of Service initiative to revitalize one neighborhood every year as 200 people joined a cleanup project in the Richman Heights community. The city has participated in Make A Difference Day for 19 years.

Additionally, the Rochester, NY, FIRST robotics competition, a Corporation for National and Community Service grantee, was recognized for combining their competition with a charity drive. During an event in October, the teen inventors also competed in the Make A Difference Day Mega Drive that collected 468 food items and $112 for a food bank; 1,052 children's books for inner-city pediatric offices; 3,600 pounds of electronic equipment for recycling; and 25 units of blood with the help of the American Red Cross.

To learn more about these projects, visit the Make A Difference Day website.

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