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Summit County volunteers receive national recognition

by Lu Snyder

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County received national recognition for its turnout at last year’s Make a Difference Day.

The Sunday newspaper supplement USA Weekend called the event’s 473 volunteers “local heroes.” Though the total number of participants was less than in 2000 (which saw 500 volunteers), the number was particularly impressive because the volunteer day coincided with snow and cold temperatures, said Jennifer Pratt Miles, who was the director of Shaping our Summit (SOS) at the time.

“We were thrilled with the turnout,” Pratt Miles said. “We had 473 volunteers turn out despite the weather – we were all somewhat in awe of that, and we felt it reflected the spirit of the community.”

SOS was a nonprofit initiative of the Meridian Institute, which worked “to create and improve opportunities for citizen involvement and community collaboration … in the areas of social, environmental, and economic” sustainability, Pratt Miles said.

Though 2001 was its sixth year in existence, SOS was suffering from funding problems, and its advisory board decided the best route was to delegate its various events among the other no-profits in the county. SOS folded after Make a Difference Day 2001.

Although SOS no longer is acting as facilitator for the annual volunteer day, Pratt Miles isn’t worried about future events.

“It really has an energy all its own,” she said. Pratt Miles is no longer directly involved with the annual event, but said, “If the weather is good, I believe that I could speak for the committee in saying that we only expect more and more volunteers to turn out because there seems to be only more and more enthusiasm for the event.”

Summit Prevention Alliance (SPA) will take over the event this year, Pratt Miles said. “They have been one of the partners from the get-go, and they know all the ins and outs.”

SPA will be working closely with the county government and other partners to make future events a success. Last year, 36 businesses, towns and organizations partnered with SOS and Summit County Government for the event.

Additionally, many of the organizer volunteers (known as the people committee) continue to volunteer, and bring their experience with them.

Last year, Make a Difference Day volunteers extended bike trails and revegetated 1,000 square yards of land near the Dillon Dam. They painted, cleaned and made other repairs at (the) senior citizens’ center, Zoomers day-care center, Bristlecone Hospice and Summit Recycling Project. They also cleaned windows, painted, planted gardens and inventoried school libraries, USA Weekend reported in its April 19-21 issue.

Lu Snyder can be reached at 970-668-3998 x203 or lsnyder@summitdaily.com


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