“The road to daily happiness is not hard to find, it’s what we do for others that brings us peace of mind.” — Unknown
That’s the philosophy behind Make A Difference Day, which is always the last Saturday in October. This year, it falls on Oct. 26.
For more than 20 years, USA Weekend magazine and Points of Light have joined together to sponsor Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of community service. Millions of volunteers around the world unite in a common mission to improve the lives of others.
Angela Henry, marketing manager for USA Today, which partners with the Make A Difference Day effort, said submissions for projects pick up in October, with many registering the week of the event. She suggested that anyone interested in joining an established volunteer effort keep checking makeadifferenceday.com for new additions.
How does Las Vegas stack up for participation?
“From last year’s registrations, it looks like Las Vegas falls in the middle of the pack as far as larger cities for participation,” Henry said. “… However, keep in mind that many events are held on Make A Difference Day each year and not registered.”
Until October, only Mary Vail’s annual effort to help stock The Salvation Army’s pantry was on the official Make A Difference Day site for Las Vegas. This marks Vail’s 15th year of collecting food donations. This year’s effort is slated from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 26 at Smith’s, 2211 N. Rampart Blvd. To learn more, visit maryvailpublicist.com.
Theresa Mayorga of South Summerlin has been volunteering for various causes since she was a child. She and her family have been involved with Habitat for Humanity, done ministry outreach and gone to Mexico on three occasions to erect homes for the needy.
“It was something that was always instilled in all of us,” she said.
She said she tries to do a lot locally, especially if it involves children. Mayorga even volunteers when she’s supposed to be relaxing. About 1½ years ago, she and her husband took a cruise to the West Caribbean. Before the trip, she went online to find volunteer opportunities and arranged to bring supplies to schoolchildren in Costa Maya. She got to meet the little town’s mayor.
“The mayor was there and took all the supplies that we’d brought down,” Mayorga said. “She was overwhelmed. Seeing her brought me to tears.”
Mayorga found out that many people have dual jobs. The mayor, it turned out, was also the only schoolteacher there. Part of the supplies included 200 toothbrushes, a personal touch as Mayorga is a dental hygienist. There were more toothbrushes than schoolchildren, so the mayor asked if she could hand out the extras to adults in the village.
“She said, ‘I’ll bet you there are people (adults) in this town who have never seen a toothbrush before,’ ” Mayorga said. “I was just shocked and overwhelmed. Outside of the tourist towns, they have so little.”
She said what warms her heart when she’s volunteering is to hear that “genuine laugh” that only children can produce.
Another Summerlin resident, Giovanna Raccosta Nezhati, has been donating her time for various volunteer efforts for the past 31 years. She had a prophetic dream about two years ago. It involved providing food for the homeless. She acted immediately and set up Dinner on Us, an all-volunteer effort that makes food for those at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, 480 W. Bonanza Road, about once a month. Since its inception, an estimated 13,000 meals have been served.
Raccosta Nezhati could not do it alone. She enlisted help from members of her church and now has about 200 people involved.
“I’m Mormon, LDS. That’s what we do in my church,” she said. “We do for others, we serve others … It’s not just feeding, we do entertainment, all kinds of wonderful stuff for them.”
The other “wonderful stuff” has the dinner effort coinciding with other Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donation efforts, which has volunteers handing out lip balm, socks and hygiene items, along with the dinner rolls.
On Nov. 2, Dinner on Us plans a Persian-themed event, cooking for 200 to 500 people, depending on how much food it receives. Raccosta Nezhati sends out an e-blast alerting people to what types of food are needed according to recipe specifications.
Not a foodie? Another donation effort in which she’s involved includes providing skeins of yarn so that youths in detention can make blankets and scarves for the homeless. Boys Town is set to receive donated yarn as well so they can make blankets and caps for children in the hospital.
The Red Rock Rotary of Las Vegas had a lot going on already this month — volunteering at Par 4 the Cure the first weekend of October, a fundraiser on Oct. 12 and a March to End Polio on Oct. 19. It does so much throughout the year that it did not schedule anything on Make A Difference Day.
“You don’t have to wait for just one day a year to make a difference in the community,” said Rachel Diehl, president. “… Here’s an organization that provides easy, one-time service projects on a monthly basis, making it easier for people to get involved in their community throughout the year.”
Another Rotary club, Las Vegas Rotary, was formed in 1923. Its 163 members do many service projects such as helping at the Shade Tree shelter or reading days at its two adopted schools. It also assists Opportunity Village with its Magical Forest and works on holiday preparations at The Salvation Army.
“By far, our largest program is Santa Clothes,” said Deb Granda, director. “We take over 300 needy children shopping at three area JC Penney stores early in December. The children generally have $150 to spend on a warm coat, new shoes and school clothes.”
Not on Make A Difference Day, but just as valued, United Way of Southern Nevada’s Women’s Leadership Council plans to host its annual one-day suit drive to collect suits and other business attire for women in need on Nov. 1. The drive helps women prepare for career opportunities. Dry-cleaned donations are set to be accepted from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the NV Energy parking lot at 6226 W. Sahara Ave. For more information, call 702-892-2319 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Many across the globe think of Vegas as a place to cut loose, party and celebrate life,” Vail said. “What they don’t realize is that we are a community with the same needs and challenges as any city — with unemployment, the homeless and the less fortunate.”
There are many opportunities for making a difference in the valley. To find more, visit nevadavolunteers.volunteermatch.org, type in a term such as “seniors” and your ZIP code. Another good site to find volunteer opportunities is 1800volunteer.org. Help with cleaning up the valley also is always needed. To see the list of upcoming events, visit donttrashnevada.org.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.