Volunteers make a difference on community-wide service day
One person can make a difference; just look at what Bonnie Kniveton of Quincy did. She nudged the city into action to do good deeds in the community on Oct. 27. Quincy Mayor Paul Worley has declared it as Quincy’s official Make a Difference Day, and the date did not go unnoticed.
October 27 is also a nationwide day of community service, started by the USA Weekend magazine in 1992. It was a leap year, and the publication encouraged everyone to make that extra day – Feb. 29 – beneficial and help in some way. The message sparked a flame of goodwill in the country. Now, Make a Difference Day takes place every year on the fourth Saturday of October.
The Quincy Senior Center was the hub of the events in Quincy on Oct. 27. The Senior Center, thanks to Stacia Soukop, who was there to open the doors and offer her hospitality, was the gathering spot, drop-off point for donations, a chance to get refreshments or to use the necessary facilities during Make a Difference Day.
Nine members of the Youth Action Interact club gathered at the center shortly after sunrise, at 8 a.m., to begin their project – cleanup of Monument Hill. Kniveton came by to express her thanks before she hurried off to check on more volunteers.
The nine youths got rides with the accompanying adults up to the site, and they were no doubt thankful that the sun was shining from a clear blue sky, as all the work was going to be outdoors.
Once on the hill, it was obvious the pick-up trucks would soon be full: the sagebrush environment was littered with plastic and glass bottles, empty gun cartridges, and broken appliances; a TV had found a resting place on the slope, as had a stove and a rusting pile of car parts. There were items hard to identify but clearly belonging to the county landfill, not in the natural environment on the hill.
The adults that came along were Kaye Baumgartner and her husband, Chris, Jack Toevs and Galen Golay. They had brought pick-up trucks to haul away the trash. Adriana Medina was present in her role as the adult senior adviser for the Youth Action Interact group. Her car was loaded with garbage bags, vinyl gloves, safety vests, hand sanitizer and, of course, snacks.
Medina initially presented the Monument Hill cleanup as a possible project for Make a Difference Day after having attended a Rotary Club meeting where the matter was mentioned. The youth group was in favor of the idea soon after Medina brought it up.
Kaye Baumgartner launched Youth Action Interact in 2010.
“I saw the need to change people’s mindsets that youth are trouble. They can be an asset, instead, given the opportunity,” Baumgartner said.
She gave them the opportunity by organizing Youth Action Interact. Kaye Baumgartner not only organizes but makes a point to participate, leading by example. On Saturday, scanning the ground on Monument Hill with a large garbage bag in tow, she stopped every few steps to pick up litter with her vinyl-gloved hands.
Jack Toevs, who is with the Rotary Club and the Nature Conservancy, lamented the abuse of the environment.
“The Nature Conservancy bought this area to preserve the habitat,” he said while looking at the ground covered with plastic bottles in front of him.
Chris Baumgartner and Toevs wasted no time in tackling the heavy items: within a half an hour, one pick-up was loaded to overflowing with household appliances of every kind. By noon, when the project ended, the volunteers had hauled away three truckloads of garbage and had some two dozen bags to drop off still.
Nicholas Lopez, one of the teens, said he chose the cleanup project “because it needs to be done – they haven’t done anything here in 15 years.”
Nora Medina, who is this year’s president of Youth Action Interact and a third-year member of the group, said: “We are proud of Quincy. This is a way to help the community.”
During Make a Difference Day, Quincy benefited from 11 volunteer groups. Some of them were: Days for Girls volunteers making personal hygiene products for girls in developing countries; the Hat Project with Lynnette Meek at Akins grocery store accepting donations; and Habitat for Humanity getting its shelves nicely organized.
Freedom Packages, organized by Nicole O’Shea and Dan Chism, made their station at the Senior Center to accept donations for American soldiers (with a Grant County connection) currently in South Korea.
In the evening, Chism hosted a bonfire get-together at Trinity Gardens for veterans. Despite the rain, 40 people came to enjoy the company and s’mores.
After the day’s projects, Kniveton shared her thoughts about Quincy’s Make a Difference Day: “I initially became interested in this event in 2005 when I saw an article in the Shriners newsletter about a young girl asking for items for the Children’s Hospital in Spokane. In 2005, I contacted Laurel Helton, a Make a Difference Day coordinator in Wenatchee, to get advice.”
Kniveton made her dream a reality by determined legwork and distributing fliers and contacting people. She did have help: Helton, Margie Kerr, the mayor’s declaration, and the Post-Register and Police Chief Kieth Siebert promoting the day. And, Kniveton’s husband, Larry, made the banners that were hung around town.
“I’m planting seeds so we can grow an orchard of good deeds. Next year, perhaps we can add a few more trees to our orchard,” Bonnie Kniveton said.
Making a difference need not be a once-a-year event: why not every day? Just a nice word can make someone’s day brighter. That would be a fine crop from tiny seeds.
By Jaana Hatton, For the Post-Register