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Make A Difference Day - Not Just Once a Year

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Saturday, October 22 is the annual "Make a Difference Day." On this day, people across the country take time out of their busy schedule to make a difference in the world by volunteering in their local community. This annual holiday is a great opportunity to give back and highlights the need to volunteer and support your local community at the same time.

How Did It Start?

Make a Difference Day is sponsored by USA WEEKEND Magazine in partnership with the country's largest volunteer service organization, Points of Light. This day of giving started back in 1992, on Leap Day, a day when the organizers promoted spending your "extra" day that year doing something good for someone else. That first Make a Difference Day had such a huge response that it has been growing in popularity year after year.

According to USA Today, the event has grown tremendously since its start in the 90s. Today, Gannett, the parent company of USA WEEKEND Magazine, is helping the day move forward by donating hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding from its Gannett Foundation. Several affiliates of Points of Light work with the organization to coordinate projects and bring people together for a common cause. In fact many of the projects earn awards, which are then highlighted at an awards luncheon in our nation's capital. If you're looking for a local project to take part in, consider checking the Make a Difference Day project list on VolunteerMatch.org.

While the work that gets done on Make a Difference Day is certainly important, and it's wonderful to see companies and communities coming together to support these efforts, the emphasis on paying it forward brings the real benefit.

Make A Difference – Every Day

Make a Difference Day is a great chance to get involved with volunteering opportunities on a grand scale, but that's just one day out of 365 a year. Why not find ways to pay it forward every day? Either by volunteering or simply performing random acts of kindness, you can make a difference every single day.

How can you find ways to give back? First, find ways to be kind. Kindness is contagious, and when you share kindness with others, you'll find them passing it on. Next, find ways to compliment people. Remember, compliments don't have to be about people's looks, though those can be effective, but you can also compliment people on their intelligence, actions, skills and personalities. Write a note or verbally compliment someone, and watch as the kindness is returned.

Also, consider looking for ways to do something nice and unexpected, particularly to someone you aren't close to. After all, it's easy to help out a friend, but helping out a stranger with no expectations of something in return is truly a beautiful thing. If the individual asks to be able to thank you in some way, ask them to "return the favor" by helping someone else in the future. In other words, ask them to pay it forward.

Be on the lookout for places where help is needed. It may be an elderly neighbor that could use help with yard work, but won't ask. It could be children trying to cross a busy street on their way to school, but don't have a crossing guard. If you start being attentive to the needs around you, volunteering opportunities will become abundant.

University of the Cumberlands believes in making a difference, both on October 22, and all throughout the year. Take some time to find a volunteer opportunity near you, or just look for a way to make a difference in your day-to-day activities. As Aesop said, “no act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted.” If we all plant a seed of kindness, the world will grow to be a much more pleasant place to live, work and pursue your education.

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