The smell of grilled burgers wafted through the air and the buzz of chatter emanated off the walls as a group of tired, hungry, happy volunteers returned from their posts at the end of the Make a Difference Day event on Saturday.
Hundreds of volunteers spent their day contributing to multiple community projects throughout Summit County. They embarked on a variety of tasks, from painting and organizing to removing brush and widening paths with local nonprofit, government and other service organizations.
Breckenridge resident Jennifer McAtamney enjoyed a lunch spread and chatted with fellow volunteers in a commons area at the Summit Stage Bus Barn on Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the day, she and her daughters, Emilie, 11, and Mairi, 13, were on site at the Keystone Science School, moving rocks and laying foundation in an effort to widen a path at the school.
“It was good to be out in the cold sweating,” McAtamney said. “We had a great team over there, and it was cool to see the difference when we were finished.”
The Summit County mom said she enjoys teaching her daughters how good it feels to give back.
“We do a lot of volunteer work, and this is one of our favorite days to come out,” she said. “It feels good to be here with all of these people, coming together to work on projects. Sometimes the nonprofits don’t have the budget or the resources to make those things happen, so it’s nice be able to help.”
Volunteers at Make a Difference Day said a common bond was formed among everyone involved.
“In a community where people are always moving in and out, it’s hard to develop a friendship and a lasting bond with a lot of people,” said volunteer Roderick MacAulay. “It’s through events like this that you get to meet some truly amazing people — people who are interested in giving back to the community — and it’s a grand time.”
Summit Rotary volunteer Aleda Kresge said the purpose of volunteering goes beyond the physical work.
“The most important value about these things is getting the community together,” Kresge said.
Make a Difference Day is also a good way to connect a variety of organizations with people in the community who may not know about them, according to event organizers.
“A person that might always work on trails might end up volunteering for an organization like the theater company,” said Robin Albert. “It becomes a win-win because the volunteers and the people at the organization get to learn about each other and appreciate each other a little more. You begin to feel that commitment within our community.”
Relationships formed during the one-day volunteer event also have the potential to become long lasting, said event organizer Peggy Hiller.
“It’s a great way for people to come out and volunteer for the community. Maybe they will find an organization they really like and start to volunteer for them more often,” she said.