Lakers to ‘make a difference’ during national day of service

GVL / Courtesy -

GVL / Courtesy –

Jessica Harsevoort

Community service can be a rewarding experience when people come together to help others. With this in mind, Grand Valley State University’s Community Service Learning Center (CSLC) will provide students with the opportunity to volunteer for GVSU’s annual Make a Difference Day.

Make a Difference Day is a national day of service that occurs on the fourth Saturday of October every year. This fall semester, GVSU will host its version of the volunteer project Saturday, Oct. 21.

The event will start at 9 a.m. in the Grand River Room of the Kirkhof Center with a motivational welcome meeting. Then, student teams will volunteer at various sites around the West Michigan area from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Throughout the day, students will receive free transportation to and from their service sites, free lunch, free water bottles and free T-shirts. At the end of the event, community service will be followed by a half-hour reflection period to promote group bonding and social awareness.

“Going out as a group and having the reflection piece is really what changes the dynamic for this particular service opportunity,” said Rachael Zaborowski, graduate assistant for the Office of Student Life. “The group dynamic really allows you to hear other people’s perspectives and to get a deeper understanding of what that community partner does and how you can fit in.”

GVSU has been involved in Make a Difference Day for more than 15 years. The list of community partnerships differs annually but continually revolves around local organizations and agencies in Allendale, Grand Rapids and Holland.

Across volunteer sites, from the Sustainable Agriculture Project to the Community Action House, participants will be sorting through donations and performing inside and outside maintenance projects.

The Native American Student Association (NASA) will also be hosting a service opportunity to clean up the Norton Mound National Historic Landmark in conjunction with Make a Difference Day.

“Make a Difference Day is a different experience because students are only there for a few hours,” said Sulan Artz-Iffland, a site leader, via email. “You can only do so many things in a short amount of time, but you would be surprised what you can do with a big group of students.”

The number of students in a service group depends on the needs of the community partner. However, GVSU’s CSLC can support up to 300 students, so there will be more than 200 volunteers and 26 site leaders.

Coordinators will try to keep student organizations grouped together for service work. Individual volunteers can request to serve at a particular community partner venue, or they will be assigned to a random location.

“My favorite part is being able to help out with complete strangers,” said Amber Lutman, another site leader, via email. “I think it’s awesome to see a group of people who are service-minded come together for a goal.”

Make a Difference Day is focused on bringing everyone together to make contributions that benefit the community and improve the lives of others.

Both Lutman and Artz-Iffland joined Make a Difference Day in order to give back to the area surrounding GVSU. Artz-Iffland said volunteering experiences can teach people compassion and understanding.

Furthermore, the CSLC’s mission for this event extends beyond just this one day of service as they encourage students to think like conscientious citizens.

“We really want to encourage students to make it part of their routine to get involved with their community, to understand what situations are impacting their community and how they can create positive change,” Zaborowski said. “This is just one step going in that direction.”

Make a Difference Day is LIB 100- and 201-approved. For those interested in volunteering, the registration deadline was extended to Friday, Oct. 20. Walk-ins will also be accepted on the day of the event.

To register for Make a Difference Day, or for more information about the CSLC’s community engagement programs, visit