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SCVNews.com | Day Makes a Difference for Local Schools, Charities | 10-26-2012
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1891 - Future First Lady Lou Henry (Hoover), 17, poses for photo at R.E. Nickel's Acton store [story]


Like the song says: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

William Oh is a pretty amazing kid.   The Golden Valley junior is president of the school’s Octagon Club, vice president of the Key Club, and serves as an officer on the ASB and as a council rep for the National Honor Society.  Oh, he’s president of the speech and debate club, too.   When he’s not dashing from one Honors class to the next, he’s thinking up ways to engage his fellow students in projects that will improve things on campus.  He recently spearheaded the school’s participation in an environmental campaign sponsored by DoSomething.org that netted Golden Valley  $5,000 in grant funding. The grant will provide monies for the purchase of a large tree that will serve as a campus landmark, plus several smaller trees and greenery to be planted throughout the school grounds. William’s Challenge: where to get the extra manpower and materials needed to loosen dirt, clear weeds, apply groundcover and give the school a thorough “ cleanup” to go along with its new greenery. William’s Solution: Make a Difference Day, America’s National Day of Volunteer Service.

For the second consecutive year, Make a Difference Day, which is organized locally by HandsOn Santa Clarita, will supply William with a number of community volunteers to bolster the group of 50 students he pulls together.   Members of the Make a Difference Day committee and representatives from Stay Green, a major sponsor of the event will meet with William and faculty to help identify trees and shrubs most suitable for the project.  HandsOn will supply extra gloves, water and supplies; Stay Green will provide extra materials and a few employees on the big day to assist with landscaping duties.  With the additional support from Make a Difference Day, William’s vision for a more green and beautiful campus will soon become a reality.

Make a Difference Day matches individuals and volunteers with a variety of “hands on” service projects – think painting, weeding, window washing and more – benefitting local schools and charities, and takes place here and across the country Saturday, October 27, 2012. Volunteer forces include individuals and teams from local business, churches, schools, scout troops and service groups.

Over the past 11 years, Make a Difference Day, the largest volunteer event in Santa Clarita, has attracted close to 14,000 volunteers and contributed an incredible 60,000 hours of combined service to schools and organizations including Carousel Ranch, the Boys & Girls Club, SCV Senior Center, SCV Historical Society, the Emergency Winter Shelter and Child & Family Center.

Often, it is the vision of one person that gets the ball of change rolling and Make a Difference Day can help in turning the roll into a goal.   Deborah Rocha is one such person.  Surviving a parent’s worst nightmare – the tragic death of her 15-year-old daughter, Samantha, in April of 2011 — Deborah refused to lose herself to grief.  Instead she used the intensity of her emotions to honor her daughter by founding Straightening Reins, an equine-based therapy intervention program dedicated to helping at-risk youth make positive choices. In a ranch environment, teens work with horses, goats, chickens and other animals.  They receive academic tutoring, leadership training and counseling for grief, loss, drugs, alcohol, peer pressure and more.  Debbie’s Challenge: finding the manpower needed to install fencing around a goat pasture and paint another fence surrounding the horse corral. Deborah’s Solution:  Make a Difference Day.

For the relatively new non-profit, participating in Make a Difference Day is providing added manpower to the 35 volunteers from Northpark Community Church and Masters College who will dig holes, install posts, affix wire, scrape, sand, prime and paint as they build one fence and paint another.  Rocha is also making important connections with schools and other non-profit agencies that are part of Make a Difference Day and with whom she can partner on programs and referrals.

Russ Kimura is regional park superintendent at Placerita Nature Center, home to Santa Clarita’s historic Oak of the Golden Dream.  The park and nature retreat offers numerous hiking trails, self-guided nature walks, docent/naturalist led hikes, a nature center museum and wild animal presentations.  The Center has applied for a grant to designate one of their nature trails as a “Brail Trail,” a trail featuring multilingual brail markers along the route.  A provision of the grant is that the trail be rich with a variety of native plants and shrubs about which future users of the dedicated “Brail Trail” will be able to “read.”   Russ’ Challenge:  Transplanting dozens of indigenous plants from throughout the vast park grounds to a 200 ft. section of the future Brail Trail.  Russ’ Solution:  Make a Difference Day.

Two years ago, dozens of Make a Difference Day volunteers spent the day clearing large rocks and debris out of Placerita Creek and stabilized its banks — efforts that allowed winter rainwaters to flow smoothly along the waterway as it traverses the park.  This year, volunteers from Chase, Yahoo Employees Foundation and Hyatt Regency Valencia will take shovels in hand to transplant the indigenous plants to both sides of designated sections of the trail.

Make a Difference Day was founded on the idea that neighbors helping neighbors is one of the best ways to keep a community strong. The more engaged a community is with its schools and the charitable agencies that care for, educate and heal its youth, elderly, families, pets and environment, the stronger those agencies and the community itself become.  Santa Clarita’s ranking as one of the country’s largest Make a Difference Day locations is not in jeopardy.  Close to 1,500 individuals have registered as volunteers for this year’s event, according to Seema Shah, executive director at HandsOn Santa Clarita. “Volunteers from age 6 on up will be deployed to 50 project locations to help fulfill the great ideas of 40 local schools and charitable organizations” Shah explained.

Local landscape professionals, Stay Green Inc., are Major Sponsors of Make a Difference Day this year.  Additional sponsors include Donaldson, ITT Aerospace Controls, Home Depot Foundation, Nexus and Hyatt Regency Valencia who hosts a Kick Off Rally for volunteers before they begin their projects.  Sandra Mitchell, anchor for KCBS 2 and KCAL 9 news emcees.  For additional information, please contact Seema Shah at 661.257.1997 or via email at makeadifferenceday@handsonscv.org.

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