You could pick up litter, plant trees or wipe down cemetery headstones any day. But there’s something powerful about fanning out with a bunch of other people all at the same time.
That’s the idea behind Make a Difference Day, founded in 1992 by newspaper magazine USA Weekend. Even though USA Weekend folded in 2014, Make a Difference Day has taken on a life of its own, with many still observing this day of service on the fourth Saturday of October.
“It’s a great way to bring the community together,” said Celina Stilphen, a program coordinator for the Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington, which is hosting a tree planting. “Last year was my first Make a Difference Day. It was great to see so many groups of people get together and enjoy a beautiful fall day.”
Watershed Alliance focuses on restoring Burnt Bridge Creek, which has long been vexed by pollution and invasive species. At the alliance’s 2018 event, 174 volunteers planted 4,000 trees and shrubs along the creek near Arnold Park. The plants filter pollutants from stormwater runoff, prevent erosion and keep water temperatures cool for fish, Stilphen said.
Clark Public Utilities is also hosting a tree planting event, while the city of Vancouver and Clark County are organizing volunteers to pick up litter.
“We are cleaning up 12 parks on one day. That’s something we can only do when the community turns out in big numbers,” said Samantha Moullet, Vancouver’s volunteer programs assistant.
Volunteers for any of the Make a Difference Day events should bring a reusable water bottle and wear long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Organizers will provide necessary tools and work gloves.
All ages and abilities are welcome; no experience is required. Volunteers younger than 18 and their parents will need to fill out consent forms.
Organizers ask that you sign up online beforehand so they can be sure to have enough supplies and refreshments ready. Sign-ups for some events may close as the slots fill. Cemetery and beach cleanup events were already full at press time, so we don’t list them here. But there’s still plenty of other opportunities welcoming volunteers.