Bryan Lindsey knows that the average person isn’t going to go through a bunch of headaches to volunteer for a cause.
So Lindsey started a group to take the pain out of volunteering.
His inspiration came from Make a Difference Day, an annual volunteer event promoted by USA Today. And when local organizers started asking charities about their greatest needs, they were almost overwhelmed.
"As we met with people, the list of things they wanted us to help them accomplish was just enormous," said Lindsey, founder of Make a Difference Las Vegas. "There’s a lot more need than we thought we could meet on a one-day deal."
That’s why Make a Difference Las Vegas will promote the needs of other nonprofit groups and charities and try to get people involved across the city, which has been ranked as the metro area with the least volunteer activity in the country.
A ceremony at 9:30 a.m. today at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission will declare Make a Difference Las Vegas Day, and several local nonprofits will be on hand to discuss pressing needs and volunteer opportunities.
Lindsey said the city’s low volunteer rating isn’t because people are cold-hearted.
"I think people really do care," he said. "They don’t know where to get started."
In 2007, the Corporation for National and Community Service ranked the Las Vegas metro area lowest in the nation for its volunteer rate of 14.4 percent and its average of 20.5 volunteer hours per person a year.
The U.S. average is a 28 percent volunteer rate and 50 hours of volunteer work per person a year.
"The organization’s we’ve partnered with, people can just show up on a Saturday and say, ‘I’m here for three hours. What can I do?’ " Lindsey said.
Those organizations include the Three Square Food Bank, the Salvation Army, the Center for Independent Living, the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, Westcare, Silver Sky Assisted Living and the Las Vegas Rescue Mission.
Make a Difference Las Vegas already has met some of the needs on the agencies’ wish lists, which have projects both large and small.
At Westcare, for example, which provides substance abuse treatment and homeless and runaway shelters, staff didn’t like that the children only got a party at Christmas. Lindsey and his group arranged for an ice cream party.
A task at Silver Sky Assisted Living, which provides low-cost senior housing, was more complicated. Several residents there rely on wheelchairs or walkers but also have pets who need exercise. Volunteers and donations built a dog run at the center so the pooches could play safely.
Those kinds of projects are what Make a Difference Las Vegas is looking for, Lindsey said.
"They had it on their ‘needs to get done’ list," he said. "But it kept getting cut out due to the budget."
Contact reporter Alan Choate at email@example.com or 702-229-6435.MARKING THE DAY 9:30 a.m., Las Vegas Rescue Mission, 480 W. Bonanza Road There will be a ceremony marking the day as Make a Difference Day Las Vegas, as well as information on donating to and volunteering with several charities. ON THE WEBmakeadifference lasvegas CHARITY WISH LISTSThe targeted charities have a wide range of requests, from simple donations to serious remodeling. Here are some samples: Three Square Food Bank• 3,000-square-foot kitchen• Automatic gate and fencing to guard against vandalism• Dishwasher and cabinets in the break room Las Vegas Rescue Mission• New carpet and tile• Roof repairs• 40 bunk beds• Industrial dishwasher for new kitchen Center For Independent Living• Dental and eye examinations• Bus tokens and passes• Six-station computer lab• Commercial refrigerators and small appliances• Small car for outreach work Nevada Partnership For Homeless Youth• Finish building new offices and patio• Shower/laundry room for clients• New floors, paint and wallpaper• Basketball court Salvation Army• Toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, razors• Culinary hats and coats• Dry erase boards and markers• New floor Silver Sky Assisted Living• Casino-type bingo setup and old slot machines for entertainment, not gambling• Two-way radios and extra pagers• Jigsaw puzzles and art supplies• Industrial clothes washer REVIEW-JOURNAL