Hundreds of student volunteers help community agencies on Make a Difference Day

Helping with the fall harvest at Phillies Bridge Farm

The 13th annual Make a Difference Day enjoyed one of the highest student participation rates in the program’s history, as nearly 350 SUNY New Paltz students gave their time and energy on Saturday, Oct. 21, to more than 30 regional non-profit organizations, environmental causes and youth centers.

“Colleges and universities exist to educate the next generations of contributing, thoughtful citizens,” said President Donald P. Christian. “But we also exist in a broader community, draw on that community, and have responsibilities to serve our communities. Our students’ volunteer work today helps serves that purpose for New Paltz.”

Spreading the love at the Ulster County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Each of the partner organizations – which included everything from Phillies Bridge Farm and the Ulster County SPCA, to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh and the New Paltz Rescue Squad – met its maximum capacity of requested volunteers.

“The Make a Difference Day program allows us to introduce our students to service and civic engagement in our region,” said Michael Patterson, director of Student Activities & Union Services. “We make it easy by handling all the logistics and coordination, and our partner agencies are great in educating our students and helping them have an impact both locally and in a global society. Our desire is always for participating students to understand the value of service, so that they are empowered and inspired to volunteer again.”

Boxing up donated goods at the campus food drive, Oct. 20

The Make a Difference Day Committee also hosted a food collection drive on Friday, Oct. 20, in the Student Union Building. Donors contributed nearly 100 food items and nearly $300.

On Saturday, the emphasis was on hands-on service. Students met on campus for a brief orientation before busing to sites throughout the Hudson Valley, where they met and worked alongside community organizers, activists, lifelong volunteers and even a few furry friends.

Stephanie Blaisdell, vice president for Student Affairs, chips in at the New Paltz Rescue Squad

“I am always excited to see so many enthusiastic SUNY New Paltz students come together for our largest service event of the year,” said Service Learning Coordinator Erica Wagner. “Our volunteers provided more than 2,000 hours of service while exploring the Mid-Hudson Valley and engaging with local non-profit organizations to address some of their greatest needs.”

Make a Difference Day is jointly organized by the Office of Student Activities & Union Services and the Career Resource Center. Visit them for more information about how to get involved with this and other volunteer opportunities.