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Saturday: A day to 'Make a Difference'

By Dawn Schuett

schuett@postbulletin.com

A national day of good deeds will have some local impact on Saturday.

Make a Difference Day, an annual event started by USA Weekend Magazine in partnership with the Points of Light Foundation, encourages Americans to volunteer to help others in their community.

Area residents are again joining the effort this year with good deeds of their own.

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In Rochester, volunteers will distribute coats and other winter clothing to families in need. In Caledonia, Rushford and Preston, high school students and adult volunteers will rake lawns and complete other chores for the elderly. A church youth group in Dodge Center plans to do the same.

Elsewhere, Habitat for Humanity Freeborn/Mower will break ground on a new house in Albert Lea that will be built by volunteers and the family that will make it their home.

Kris Rein, community involvement coordinator for CommunityNet in Rochester, said anyone who wants to participate in Make a Difference Day Saturday just has to look around at the needs in their neighborhood or community and help wherever they can.

On Saturday and Nov. 2, volunteers from CommunityNet, Mayo Clinic and United Way of Olmsted County will give away coats and other winter clothing collected by clinic employees.

The importance of community service was reiterated last week, Rein said, during President George W. Bush's visit to Rochester when he thanked 15-year-old Nick Reichel for logging 400 volunteer hours.

During Bush's State of the Union address earlier this year, the president called for Americans to commit to two years or 4,000 hours of community service in their lifetimes.

"Take the president's challenge of two years or 4,000 hours," Rein said. "Not that you have to keep track to make a difference."

Julie Winkels, director of the United Methodist Youth Fellowship in Dodge Center, said youngsters in that group are eager to help neighbors on Make a Difference Day. About six youngsters in grades three through seven in the group will volunteer to rake, dust, vacuum and do other household chores for those in need. Unfortunately, Winkels said, no one has called yet to offer them work.

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"They're very willing," Winkels said of the youth group. Dodge Center residents in need of their assistance may call Winkels at 374-8040.

Jan Pohlman, coordinator of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and the Semcare Chore Program for Semcac, will bring together RSVP volunteers and 29 ninth-graders from Caledonia to help senior citizens in the community. RSVP volunteers also will work in Rushford and Preston. Pohlman said they're also in need of more jobs for volunteers. Any resident in Caledonia who is 60 and older with some kind of disability and who needs help may call Pohlman at 725-5441.

Emmett Earl, office manager for Habitat for Humanity Freeborn/Mower, said it's a coincidence that the organization will break ground on its 18th house on Make a Difference Day.

Although volunteerism is in the spotlight that day, volunteers for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity change lives and communities year-round, he said.

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