CHRIS PAGANO * firstname.lastname@example.org
Make A Difference Day, held yesterday, took place across the nation. Locally, members of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi inserted letters to babies and prepared Little Golden Books with a letter to babies and affixed labels in preparation of distributing the 1,000 books to Saint Francis Medical Center and Southeast Missouri Hospital. By Chris Pagano ~ Southeast Missourian
Make A Difference Day mobilized hundreds of area residents Saturday, turning them into do-gooders whose deeds will last far longer than 24 hours.
The annual event, in its 13th year and sponsored every October by USA Weekend magazine, encourages individuals and groups to register charitable projects on the makeadifferenceday.org Web site and get others involved. Winners for the best projects across the nation will be announced in USA Weekend, which is inside each Sunday's Southeast Missourian, in April. Ten projects will win $10,000 each.
This year's projects included painting a mural, gathering hygiene products, cleaning up a city and making friends with the elderly.
At Southeast Missouri State University, about 20 Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society members gathered in Academic Hall to promote literacy through their Born to Read project. They meet biannually, furnishing 1,000 Little Golden Books for area hospitals to give newborns' parents.
"About 1,600 babies are born annually between the two hospitals, so we need to do this twice a year," said Dr. Tamara Baldwin, a professor in Southeast's communications department.
Participants sell donated items at one colossal yard sales and use the money to buy books directly from Random House at a reduced price. The honor society equips books with labels and a letter encouraging the babies to convince others to read to them.
A new mural at Orchard Drive Elementary in Jackson reflects the combined efforts of volunteer time donated by the school's principal, active and retired teachers, two high school students and the Parent-Teacher Organization. The final stage of sealing the mural in the school's cafeteria was carried out Saturday by principal Clay Vangilder.
Work on the mural began with a planning committee formed in May. School art teacher Susan Lane was still painting veins on the leaves Friday.
First-grade teacher Donna Kielhofner complimented the team effort.
"Out of the goodness of his heart, one civilian volunteer, Steve Masters, worked on the mural from 5 to 10 p.m.," she said. "He drew all the original characters, transferred them onto the walls, and we painted them by number."
The mural takes a twist on the Three Little Pigs story with an illustration of their igloo house being melted by the wolf with a blowdryer. For Jack and the Beanstalk, an illustration with a strategically placed giant hand is reaching from the cafeteria's ceiling.
Ruth Ann Mier, county psychiatric rehabilitation center supervisor at the Community Counseling Center in Cape Girardeau, reported that the employees at the center collected cleaning supplies and hygiene products for First Call For Help to participate in Make A Difference Day. First Call for Help is a one-stop shop for those in need to be directed to assistance.
Brenda Webb of McClure, Ill., explained the Make A Difference Day project in her town.
"We've been having a village-wide cleanup for four years now," she said. "Members of the community can take their unwanted items down to the Dumpster and get rid of them on Make A Difference Day. Since we have no city services, this really helps people, especially the elderly. The McClure Baptist Church makes a chili and hot dog dinner for all volunteers loading the Dumpster."
The receptacle, donated by Woodmen of the World and big enough for two cars, gets filled by about 15 to 25 families.
"We send out trucks to help neighbors who can't bring the stuff here," Webb said.
Next week, Girl Scouts of Tsalagi service unit, including Scouts from Jackson, Gordonville, Millersville and Oak Ridge, will hold a Make A Difference Day event they have named Grandfriends Day.
"A lot of Girl Scout events were going on at the same time, so we chose to hold our Make A Difference Day event the week after," said Melissa Rose, event organizer.
About 50 are expected at Jackson Bowling Lanes next Saturday. Scouts are to bring any elderly person they want to be their grandfriend for the event.
In 2003, three million people volunteered nationwide to make a difference on Make A Difference Day.
335-6611, extension 133