Make a Difference Day is a SUNY New Paltz tradition organized through the Office of Student Activities and the Career Resource Center as a way of connecting student volunteers with the regional organizations that need them most.
“The ultimate goal of Make a Difference Day is to give students opportunities to do community service in a really easy way,” said Michael Patterson, director of Student Activities & Union Services. “All they have to do is sign up and show up – we make the contacts and arrange transportation. So it’s a great way to inspire people to commit to lifelong community service.”
This year’s installment, held on Oct. 24, saw the largest turnout in New Paltz history, with more than 350 students donating their time to work on a total of 26 sites. Both figures represent new records, as previous highs were 300 students and 23 work sites.
The volunteers fanned out to locations across the Hudson Valley – from the Village of New Paltz to the nearby cities of Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Newburgh and surrounding areas. The volunteers supported a variety of different kinds of organizations – some took the time to plant tree seedlings with Orange County Tree Planting or Hudson River Trees for Tribs; others assisted in clearing and cleaning hiking and camping areas at local preserves; and some even helped construct the haunted house hosted annually by the New Paltz Youth Program.
As a supplement to the Make a Difference Day volunteer activities, program organizers also coordinated to seek donations to the Food Pantry managed on campus by the Student Christian Center. The effort raised $155 and brought in more than 240 food items for distribution by the Pantry.
“The Make a Difference program has grown every year,” Patterson said. “We know students like the program and that the students who volunteer year in and year out get a lot out of it. It’s speaks to the character of students at New Paltz – to find this many people who are willing to wake up on a cold October day, go out and volunteer, you just can’t ask for anything better.”