Most of us have adapted to wearing masks and keeping our distance this year. This may protect others and ourselves from COVID-19, but it’s created a new challenge: we all are a bit less visible to each other. Our next-door neighbor may need help or attention, and we may not even know it.
There are so many simple ways to make a difference to people who may be less visible. Handwritten cards. Doing household chores. Shopping. A phone call.
For 30 years, United Way and other organizations have celebrated Make A Difference Day on the 4th Saturday in October. And although in 2020 things have changed, people still want to make a difference, perhaps more than ever.
Instead of observing a single day, United Way of Marathon County has organized activities for the entire week for small (10 people or less) groups to rake homeowners’ yards in Wausau, Wisconsin. Volunteers will be assigned homes via email and will arrange the best time and day with the homeowner.
Homeowners and neighbors are so appreciative that someone is reaching out to them in such a practical way. As one homeowner said, “I don’t know what I’d do without it. It’s awesome. I have a big yard. I’m older with health issues and a low income. It’s a blessing for me.” Homeowners receive the added benefit of learning what United Way has to offer, like 24/7 assistance and referrals by dialing 211.
This is an easy way for people to get involved, and it truly makes the community think about the people who are less visible. In a previous year, a teen raker went back in the summer and mowed the lawn for an elderly couple. Likewise, this year, hopefully the raking teams will reach out to help with snow shoveling, spring cleaning, or connect in other ways.
Over this coming weekend, United Way of Northwest Georgia has mobilized about 100 Dalton-area volunteers to serve. Phenix Flooring volunteers will install a Born Learning Trail at the Chatsworth Library. Valley Point Elementary will receive a new Little Free Library, courtesy of volunteers from Brown Industries and the Whitfield County School System. United Way’s Women's Leadership group is making baskets of cleaning supplies for a local Grandparents Raising Grandchildren group. And volunteers are behind two big events that weekend: the Dalton Grand Prix bike race and the Conasauga River Watershed Cleanup.
Recent research shows how kindness and feeling good are related. During these unsettling and uncertain times, children and adults alike could use the boost that volunteering brings along with knowing that even though there are many things we can’t control, we can make a difference. Every day.