Hattiesburg, like many cities throughout the U.S., celebrated Make a Difference Day on Saturday.
Started in 1992, Make A Difference Day is the largest national day of community service. On the fourth Saturday of October every year, this day encourages neighbors to help neighbors, and millions of Americans unite in a common goal to improve each other’s lives. Projects across the Pine Belt involved many volunteer organizations and institutions that itched in for a greater cause.
The AIDS Services Coalition began rehabilitating 16 housing units, which will be called Sheley Place. Fifteen units at the old College Street apartments will house people who have tested positive, as well as those who are high-risk, such as homeless individuals.
“A lot of our services are for people who are at high-risk,” executive director Kathy Garner told the Hattiesburg American. “So, it will not be an AIDS village. The board wanted it to be a permanent housing program for people who need it and not just people who are positive (for AIDS).”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a Community Block Development Grant award administered through the City of Hattiesburg funded the project.
“This is the first of its kind in the state that’s funded through these kinds of money,” Garner said. “This will be permanent, supportive housing.”
“Make A Difference Day was created as a way to give back to the communities that we work and live in,” said Kathy Bullock, the Hattiesburg American Make A Difference Day’s coordinator. “Well, we live here, work here, play here and we want to give back to our community.”
The United Way of Southeast Mississippi and The University of Southern Mississippi have promoted volunteer work for the Oseola McCarty Youth Development Center. These organizations worked on a community garden project also this Saturday.
“We’re just glad to be able to help people get involved—students, non-students (and) community members,” said Christopher Ferrell, USM Center for Community and Civic Engagement program director.
Saturday also incorporated the initiation of Mississippi Day of Giving, a 24-hour online fundraising drive for nonprofit organizations throughout the state. All donations and campaigns are created through GiveGab, a social network aimed at volunteer work for nonprofits The Mississippi Day of Giving was created to provide campaigns and an opportunity to gain donor contributions. Social media sites have also given awareness campaigns a chance to be known.
Southern Miss alumna Nohemi Martinez served the Oseola McCarty Youth Development Center (OMYDC) Saturday through AmeriCorps, along with other volunteers at the Center through REACH, a work-study program on campus. Volunteers from the USM Luckyday Citizenship program, along with independent volunteers from the community, participated in Make a Difference Day throughout the city.
“Make a Difference Day in Hattiesburg is a way for the community to learn about groups and organizations who exist to serve the Hattiesburg area,” Martinez said. “It’s a way for individuals to do something different to help others.”
Groups that joined the AmeriCorps volunteers on Make A Difference Day included the Future Black Law Students Association and TRIAD AmeriCorps.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet wonderful members of the community who have a vision for this city and who have made the commitment to making that vision a reality,” Martinez said. “Slowly but surely, lives are changing because of OMYDC and all organizations and people involved with it.”
For information about community service, contact the Center for Community and Civic Engagement.