October 22, 2015

Ways to Celebrate Make a Difference Day

For more than 20 years, Make A Difference Day has been an annual event encouraging people to get involved in their communities and make a difference.
It is a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors. On Make a Difference Day (October 24th), millions of volunteers from across the nation will unite in a common mission to improve the lives of others. The stories told around Make A Difference Day show that anyone – regardless of age, location or resources – can accomplish amazing things when they look for solutions to challenges faced by the members of their community.
I wanted to get involved with Make a Difference Day in my community so I found three great organizations in East Tennessee that make a difference in the lives of folks in our area. I'm stopping by for a visit with my friends at WBIR/Foxville43 to share some of the ways you can help out too!

Of course, everyone has different organizations that are near and dear to his/her heart. I just picked three that are close to mine.

1) YWCA - 

The YWCA is a nonprofit organization that has been helping women and their families in Knoxville for 108 years. Women come to the YWCA in times of crisis, as survivors of rape or domestic violence, and for housing as they transition to a permanent living situation. The great folks at the YWCA work to help them become independent by providing career counseling and support.

The YWCA isn't just committed to helping women meet their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, but it also helps revive their spirits.

If you'd like to support the YWCA, take a look at their wishlist. It includes things like reading glasses, journals, women's toiletry items (hair care products for women with all different types of hair), and alarm clocks.

Reading glasses or a journal may seem like such a small contribution, but I think we've got to shake off this idea that the little things don't matter. They do. In fact, I think the little things are the big things.

It's not about having a lot of money and being able to write a big check. Making a difference starts with just the smallest idea and can only grow from there.

For a complete wish list of items needed at the YWCA Knoxville, click here.

2) Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley

I've been collaborating with the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley this year as part of the work of one of my clients and it's been so great to take part in those efforts.

The Humane Society has a wishlist too and they are always in need of various things like newspaper, pet toys and food bowls, leashes, collars and treats.

I could write many words about how much a sweet rescue dog named Leon changed my heart and life. Supporting other animals and animal organizations feels like a way to honor him and the joy he brought to the world.

3) Office on Aging

The organization that I was least familiar with, but wanted to support as part of Make a Difference Day is the Knox-County/Knoxville Office on Aging.

The organization's director, Susan Long, was kind enough to speak to me about some of the programs and projects they are currently doing, 21 in total!

Some programs help seniors get the hot meals they need, as well as offer them the companionship of people and pets. Then there are other services that assist seniors with learning how to use computers, how to make sense of social security paperwork and just having a trusted advisor for dealing with various issues.

The Connecting Hearts Program (a partnership between WBIR-TV, CAC Office on Aging Mobile Meals, and Second Harvest) provides extra help and companionship to Mobile Meals and Office on Aging clients who have been identified by program staff as extremely socially isolated and having limited access to food.

This program  allows volunteers to provide a weekly delivery of supplemental food to at-risk seniors in our community while also performing a check on their well-being over the weekend.

Long told me that this program grew out of a desire of younger folks (20s and 30-somethings) who wanted to get involved but couldn't take off work during the week to deliver hot meals. It makes me feel so great to know there are folks in my age demographic who want to help.

How you can make a difference - 

If you would like to make a difference in your community for Make a Difference Day or anytime, I'm sure there are plenty of opportunities! Visit the websites or social media pages of some organizations you'd like to support and see if they have wishlists or other needs.

If you can't find this information, give them a call! I called the Office on Aging and was connected with several people who gave me great information. It's always better to find out exactly what the organization's needs are before jumping in to help.

Sometimes it's something really specific that they need or maybe they want some help getting the word out about a particular project or initiative. Look for ways to help and lend a hand!

Are you doing anything special for Make a Difference Day? I truly believe the smallest things can have the greatest impact. We just can't limit ourselves or our thinking. Sometimes our time is our most valuable resource anyway. No matter what organizations you feel passionate about, I hope you'll take some time to support them in some way for Make a Difference Day. You won't regret it!