Unification News for December 2004

SFP: Make a Difference Day

Service for Peace mobilized its volunteers in six locations to join with thousands of others for the annual Make a Difference Day sponsored by the USA WEEKEND Magazine and the Points of Light Foundation. It was an opportunity to do some good in the neighborhood.

MIAMI, FL

Service for Peace (SFP) Florida kicked off the "Revitalization of LeJeune Gardens (RGL) Initiative" on Make A Difference Day. This long term initiative will bring the residents together with volunteers in revitalizing the LeJeune Gardens community.

PATTERSON, NJ

On Saturday, October 16, 2004 Patterson became a cleaner place to live. All you have to do is take a walk through the East side Park , take a glance at the Passaic River , or take a drive down Route 20. The world is beginning to look brighter. 

Thanks to sponsoring organizations such as Village Initiative, NJ Community Developing Corporation, Service for Peace and the City of Patterson , youth from all around the county came to offer their morning in service. About 100 kids came from different cultures and backgrounds and came excited about making a change in the world they live in. They were so excited that they could complete their work in less then 4 hours. They really had a chance to experience an impact that they can make especially when working with others. One of the participants commented, "It was incredible to work together with a racially diverse group while helping each other take care of our environment. I feel that working with people from different backgrounds helps me see how alike we are."

The city of Patterson couldn't let the amazing work of these young people go unnoticed. Mayor Torres provided breakfast, lunch, as well as providing CD players and small stereos to over half the participants! All in all it was an event worth attending, next time for sure the turnout will be bigger and participants more numerous. 

WORCESTER, MA

This exciting day began at 9 AM with a one-hour workshop on Leadership and Service at Friendly House, 36 Wall Street in Worcester , led by Pete Shungu, the Community Outreach Coordinator at Mass. College of Pharmacy. This was a fun interactive seminar designed to inspire young people to volunteer in the community and to believe that they can make a difference.

Representatives of several different schools and church groups showed up with a total of sixty four aduls and youth volunteers. Our goal was to reclaim the park and playground behind Friendly House! Friendly House is a non-profit organization which provides a wide variety of services, including a very active after-school program and services for the elderly and the homeless. Over time, due largely to a lack of funds, the Friendly House playground has become dangerous and unusable. Youth and adult volunteers worked hard to demolish and level the old playground. A local business has donated a gazebo that will be built on one part of the playground. In addition, Friendly House has purchased 500 bulbs they will be planted this week-end in that area. As elderly people use FH regularly, the Gazebo and garden will be a wonderful addition, a place where they can sit and enjoy themselves. In the park, a lot of work was done by adults with chain saws, and the youth helped to cut back the brush and drag it to the truck for transport to the DPW yard. This park has been overgrown and unused since 1975. A truck load of garbage was also cleaned up.

Some of the neighbors came to admire the work of these volunteers, inspired that so much energy and effort is being put into making their neighborhood a beautiful place again. City councilor Philip P. Palmier thanked everyone for the work they were doing and explained how much this effort helped the neighborhood and the city. At the end of the day we met together to reflect and plan upcoming service projects. Of course this project has a long way to go and we will continue working on it every Sat from 9am to noon as long as the weather permits. So if you would like to join us just show up or contact Service for Peace.

NEW YORK, NY

Service For Peace New York joined with the Westchester County Parks department and three local colleges SUNY Purchase, Manhattanville, and Pace to spruce up local trails and parks along the South County Trail in Elmsford NY, and in Silver Lake Park in Harrison . Like many of the local parks and trails, non-native species are proving a biological threat to the environment that can lead to worse. For example, last year a dead tree fell and killed a couple driving with their infant child (who survived) on a local parkway. 85 of our volunteers made a difference by removing vines that were choking native hardwood trees, and at the same time opening up new views for the trail's many users.

CHICAGO, IL

This year's Make a Difference Day project was amazing. We were joined by volunteers and staff from the Chicago Forest Preserve, The National Audubon Society, the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, The Chicago Peace Family Church and World CARP to participate in the "Bonk the Buckthorn" event at Spring Creek.

The morning of the project the group of us headed out to the Spring Creek Forest Preserve in Barrington IL. After taking some time to find this remote location, including a few wrong turns and misread maps, we arrived at the site to be welcomed by lots and lots of rain. Not sure what to think of the situation, we pulled into the gravel parking lot in the forest clearing. In front of us was the view of blurred blue t-shirts gathered in the distance. "Let's do it," a girl said as she got out into the rain. Following behind her I pulled my hood over my head and went over to get soaked with the rest of the group. Who knew that this wet beginning would be the start to an amazing Make a Difference Day.

The first thing I noticed was the volunteers' attitudes towards the rain. The wet whether was definitely not dampening anyone's sprits. The preparation team had been cheerfully putting together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches under the little shelter they could find. A group of guys actually got a game of football going with one of the peanut butter jars for a ball. Then, when Artie, who led the orientation, jumped onto one of the picnic tables and yelled, "You guys ready to cut down some buckthorn?" There was a loud, energized cheer from everyone in response. He shared about what makes the things we do service for peace and not only service for service. This included an explanation on how and why we could set a challenging goal for the day. We then gathered in smaller, more intimate groups where SFP team leaders helped volunteers define their goals.

We had the same goal in our minds, and even as we broke up into different areas of the prairie, we truly felt like we were one. As the day progressed and the buckthorn started coming down the rain stopped. It really perked up the atmosphere around the volunteers. Throughout the day, rain or not, some people were really working hard. Quite a few girls from the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, who came out for the project, were great inspirations for other volunteers as well.

The 80 volunteers who came all stepped up to make sure every job was accomplished. Each of us played a unique role. Our tasks became intertwined and dependant on each other which created an awesome sense of teamwork. Stepping back to look over the whole prairie, you could see this great diversity and cooperation spreading threw all the groups; it was a very motivating sight. Tracy Polanzi from Phi Sigma Sigma said, "It was a definite good experience. I felt like I did something today and I never got bored!"

Risking sounding like a cliché, this Make a Difference Day truly made a difference for all of us. We got the chance to brave the weather, challenge ourselves, and in teamwork find a rainbow after the storm. I'll be looking forward to make a difference next year.

BELLINGHAM, WA

The Bellingham Service for Peace kids joined in with the city wide MADD program organized by the Whatcom Volunteer Center.  We worked on a salmon habitat restoration project headed up by the Noosack Salmon

Enhancement Assn. 5 High School youth, all veterans of the Summer of Service and all other past SFP projects, worked in the rain planting trees along Whatcom Creek. 

Our next Bellingham project will be serving Thanksgiving meals to the elderly and disabled on Nov. 23rd.

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