Giving back to the community

GVL / Courtesy - Student Life

GVL / Courtesy – Student Life

Colleen Schonfield

Each year on the fourth Saturday of October, millions of volunteers around the country come together in pursuit of partaking in a day filled with opportunities to improve the lives of others. Such an event celebrates the power individuals have to make a difference in their local communities – a time aptly named and devoted as Make a Difference Day.

Grand Valley State University is among the many schools taking part, contributing to the numerous opportunities for volunteer and philanthropic opportunities for students, staff and faculty at the university. What makes this day unique alongside other service projects is the unity aspect, as Make A Difference Day has been established and known as a national day of service.

Assistant Director of Student Life, Leadership and Service Initiatives Valerie Guzman, said that service opportunities such as Make a Difference Day are a great way for volunteers to learn something new.

“These kind of opportunities plant the seed for them (volunteers) to want to do more work in the future,” Guzman said. “It’s a powerful thing to be an active citizen in the community.”

Aspiringly past their attendance limit, the Community Service Learning Center closed registration early this year, as over 380 people signed up for Make A Difference Day; last year hosted nearly 350 volunteers. However, Guzman emphasized that although registration ended on Oct. 17, the CSLC is accepting walk-in volunteers pending space on Oct. 25 before 9:45 a.m.

The CSLC partners with 21 off-campus nonprofit organizations around the community. Of these include Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, Alternative Pathways, Camp Blodgett, Love Inc. and others who are in need of volunteer help.

With a range of service opportunities comes a range in activities, as volunteers will be accommodating the needs of the community in any way they can. Such tasks involve creative and constructional projects, helping out at donation centers, yard work and others.

Laura Murnen is a graduate assistant in the CSLC who helps in coordinating service projects. She agrees with Guzman and hopes volunteers, especially students, realize how much of a difference they are making within the community.

“I want them to make the connection that they’re participating in an event that makes a huge, positive impact,” she said.

Murnen recommended volunteers utilize the “Service Tracker” on GVSU’s website, an online database tool that helps students create a profile to log their service hours.

“It’s a great profile to have to show future employers,” she said. “They (employers) want to see someone who has concern for their community.”

Guzman said Make A Difference Day is meant to allow volunteers to learn more about the organization they’re working for, the impact they’re making and simply enjoying time to reflect back on their experiences.

“I hope that everyone who participates understands that they are a part of a larger movement,” she said. “It’s great for them to be able to walk away and fully understand the impact they made.”

Providing this service opportunity for more than 15 years, GVSU is proud to continue its annual tradition of devoting time to benefit the community in any way they can.

For those who missed registration and are unable to attend Make A Difference Day on Oct. 25, the next volunteer opportunity is slated for Nov. 8. The event correlates with Service Saturdays, a monthly service opportunity. November’s service project will be working at a wheelchair basketball tournament at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

For more information about Make A Difference Day and other service opportunities, visit