It is a day when volunteers use a little effort to make a big difference. The day is called Make a Difference Day, and is known to involve thousands of volunteers helping others nationwide. On Saturday, nearly 250 students gathered in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center to do the same.
Almost every charitable organization and volunteer group in the nation were involved in the 13th annual Make A Difference Day. And for USF, it was the third time participating in the event. At volunteer sites in the Tampa Bay area, participants interacted with children and cleaned up trash on Florida beaches.
“It was not only a quick way to get community service, but it was fun and very interesting,” said volunteer Coco Fosu.
Elizabeth Everett, director of Make a Difference Day, said this was her first time directing such a large event.
“I had a great committee to work with and we have been planning this for about five weeks now.”
Everett said she was amazed at the number of students who participated.
“We had 10 sponsoring organizations (and) individuals also participated. This opened it up to everybody (not just the organizations involved),” Everett said.
Groups were assigned to different volunteer sites and volunteers carpooled to the various sites and didn’t finish until noon.
There were a total of 10 organizations throughout Tampa in need of volunteers Saturday. Horses for the Handicapped was one. Volunteers helped lead the horses and helped with daily tasks such as brushing and feeding. Metropolitan Ministries was another. On Saturday, volunteers also assisted Vietnam veterans in restoring an old battleship that was used in Vietnam called The America Victory Ship.
“We helped clean out different decks (and painted). It was a real ship used in Vietnam that is not used anymore,”Fosu said. We also helped move supplies from different stories on the ship. It was cool because a lot of people had never seen a real ship before and to see where the (soldiers) lived, ate and slept on the ship,” University Village was another place for volunteers to work. Volunteers interacted with elderly residents by watching television and eating lunch with them.
Everett volunteered at University Village and said it was a day she will always remember.
“We took the elderly to the gazebo and talked with them. There were only three volunteers there because the village had a cap (only three were allowed),” Everett said. “We helped them prepare for lunch and fed them. We all met in the cafeteria and helped them with their coffee and watched Lawrence Welk with them.”
Fosu said she is already looking forward to next year’s event.
“It was really cool because I got to meet different students and see different organizations. I got to see them all working together, I would do it again and I recommend it to anyone,” Fosu said.