Love your neighbor.

Many members of the McAlester community feel these are words to live by.

More than 80 volunteers from area businesses and service groups gathered at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club at Third Street and Chadick Saturday morning in hopes of making a difference.

“There is no reason for a person not to be able to help other people,” Maureen Harrison, lead organizer of Make a Difference Day in McAlester, said.

Make a Difference Day is a national volunteer service day that takes place the fourth Saturday each October. The project is sponsored by USA Weekend, the Points of Light Foundation and actor Paul Newman.

Harrison said the number of volunteers and applications almost doubled since last year.

“I’m more than pleased,” Harrison said. “We’ve been able to help a lot of people, we have more volunteers than ever and the weather has been perfect.”

This year’s focus was to help the elderly and people with disabilities. Volunteer teams traveled all over the community helping with projects such as yard work, painting, installing smoke alarms and sealing off windows for winter.

The team from Spirit Aerosystems gathered at the home of Susie Boatner, a stroke victim, to cover her windows with plastic to help keep the winter air out.

“Oh, bless them,” Boatner said. “I’m very cold natured and this way I can stay a little warmer.”

When asked if she felt the team had made a difference, Boatner’s response was fast.

“Most definitely,” Boatner said. “I can’t get out and do it myself.

“I wouldn’t even know who to call or where to begin.”

Spirit team member Sharan Bryant said she enjoys participating in Make a Difference Day.

“It’s wonderful to help,” Bryant said. “I think this can make a big difference. I know how it feels to need something done and not be able to do it yourself.”

Debbie Dalton, another member of the Spirit team, said she was glad to work with other members to give back to the community.

She hopes even more people will volunteer next year.

“There were lots of volunteers,” Dalton said. “But wouldn’t it be great if all the corporations joined in.”

Projects weren’t limited to home maintenance and repairs. Some groups even helped install phone lines, work on electrical wiring and perform some basic computer maintenance.

Members of the Kiamichi Technology Center installed a new phone line at Parent’s Club Inc. thrift store.

Parent’s Club is a non-profit organization that serves Pittsburg and surrounding counties. They offer clothes, furniture and appliances at a minimal price. They also have a work training program for people with disabilities.

“I feel like we should help them,” KTC volunteer Kevin Zaring said. “They have this thrift store to help people get necessities they might not be able to get otherwise.”

Parent’s Club Director Barbara Countz is excited about the phone line.

“Boy, that’s going to be such a blessing,” Countz said. “We train handicapped workers and they have to run back and forth to the phone. It’s going to save a lot of time, and wear and tear on our feet.”

Countz said volunteers really do make a difference.

“I’ve seen it help so many people,” Countz said. “They are so appreciative, especially the people who have no one to take care of them.”

Each year, the sponsors of Make a Difference Day give out 10 $10,000 rewards to volunteer groups who they feel have done more than average.

Harrison said the McAlester Make a Difference Day group were the recipients of one of the rewards last year.

The group donated the money to Knights of Columbus Council 775 based at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in McAlester.

But Harrison said they aren’t in it for the money.

“We’re not doing this for the money or the recognition,” Harrison said. “We’re doing it because of a need.”

Harrison is already looking forward to next year, and said this year couldn’t have gone any smoother.

“I just had a feeling it was going to be a good day,” Harrison said. “The success of this project has shown unity within our community.”

Trending Video

Recommended for you