2 million add up to 'Make a Difference'

Ten projects that individuals and organizations completed around the nation on Make a Difference Day, Oct. 23, 1999, will receive $10,000 awards today in the nation's capital, as the final step of the ninth annual day of helping others.

Here in the tri-city area, six projects which drew more than 900 volunteers counted among the national total of more than 2 million volunteers in the event, sponsored by USA Weekend in partnership with the Points of Light Foundation.

Paul Newman and his food company, Newman's Own, donated the $100,000 for the 10 national award-winning projects, which ranged from a garage sale by a 10-year-old cancer patient to benefit a cancer ward, to a house-building project for a family in a border town.

Those projects are as follows:

• In Beckley, W.V., 7-year-old Drew Humphrey responded to the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd by donating his toys, and the toys from his eighth birthday to the children victims. After the media picked up on his actions, more than 1,000 toys went to 300 children.

• In Tulsa, Okla., Ed Dixon, a 50-year-old homeless man, repaid the Glory House Shelter for its help by staging a benefit concert that raised $1,000.

• After leaving one Make a Difference Day project because it had too many volunteers, Susan Abbott of Henderson, N.C. passed a rundown church, when something moved her to stop. Her "Do you need help?" turned into a a family project that protected the church from falling trees and cleared the way for a future steeple.

• The 2,800 members of Edenton Street United Methodist Church, Raleigh, N.C. donated $50,000 and promised to help Hurricane Floyd flood victims until they are back home, a commitment that could take three years. On Make a Difference Day, church members cleaned out nine flooded houses in Princeville, N.C., allowing residents to salvage what they could and move on.

• Maida Apodaca of El Paso, Texas, volunteered to raise $2,500 to build a new home for a family in the border town of Anapra, Mexico, plus raise $225 for use of a van, and recruit 16 workers to build it in three days. When everything didn't go well, she revised her plan and started collecting 2,000 toiletries and socks for a homeless shelter. As she did, money and volunteers started coming in for her house-building project, too, and she ended up finishing both.

• Families from Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. helped Linnie and Debra Dickson, who have cared for 43 foster children over the years, turn an abandoned 20-room estate into a foster center, for their use and to train new foster parents.

• Instead of being petrified by a mom's illness, her daughter and two friends mobilized themselves to raise money for lupus research. When Vaden's daughter, Diana, 10, stayed with her best friend Kristal DeRuise, 10, while Vaden was in the hospital with lupus complications, Kristal came up with the idea of painting rocks like ladybugs and sell them for $2 each for the Lupus Foundation. The Sparks, Nev., pair and Kristal's brother, Trevor, 8, sold 500 of them on Make a Difference Day, raising $1,000 for lupus research.

• In Schuylkill County, Pa., 9,700 volunteers helped with 146 projects, aiding nursing homes, food pantries, non-profit groups, individuals, families, organizations, animal shelters, libraries and parks.

• Across the country, 7,000 Job Corps volunteers from 97 centers in 44 states turned out for Make a Difference Day, a 40 percent increase from 1998.

• Ten-year-old Andrew Libka, a cancer patient, decided to sell his toys at a garage sale, with half of the proceeds benefitting a Ronald McDonald House his family has used in Buffalo, N.Y., and half for a drive to create a cancer treatment center at his own local hospital in Alpena, Mich. Between his donations and those from the community, he raised $615.46, for $307.73 to each cause.

Locally, six groups submitted their projects to USA Weekend. While none of them won national or regional awards, they counted toward the 2 million volunteers helping more than 2 million people on Make a Difference Day.

USA Weekend selected a youth group's recycling project for The Daily Courier's award.

About 60 people contributed paper, newspaper, glass and metals to Trinity Lutheran Church's G-Force Kids' Club recycling project.

The group worked with the Town of Prescott Valley, which paid the cost of renting dumpsters, transporting the materials to Flagstaff that a local recycler wouldn't take, and leaving the materials there.

G-Force collected more than 1,000 pounds of both newspapers and cardboard, and more than 1,000 pounds of other recycleables (glass, plastics, office paper, aluminum cans, other metals and other paper).

Ruthann Gregg, adviser to the G-Force Kids' Club, said she hopes the project has a more long-range result.

"I would like to see a recycling station take up permanant residence in Prescott Valley," she said. "A grant would enable us to afford the cost of recycling here and would be a small price compared to what a town this size could recycle."

Other projects in the tri-city area that individuals and groups submitted included:

• The Boys and Girls Club of Central Yavapai's 28-hour telethon Oct. 22-23 that attracted 600 volunteers and raised $50,000 to open the organization's first club.

• The Prescott American Youth Soccer Organization's canned food drive, which allowed 200 families to contribute 200 canned food items and about $95 in change to the Project Aware Men's Shelter in Prescott.

• Youth4Youth's 40-volunteer effort to remodel the YMCA's John E. Moore Skate Park used by 475 skaters.

• The Shanti Wellness Project sponsored the Cornucopia Benefit Performance and silent auction. The benefit featured 16 community performers and a silent auction of locally donated items. More than 80 people attended, raising more than $1,300 for the free, holistic health clinic for women.

• The Granite Gate Resort retirement community raised nearly $2,000 in its third annual Make a Difference Day benefit yard sale. About 20 staff members were involved through sorting, pricing, selling and getting donations of money. The proceeds benefit the local Children's Burn Camp.