10/21/2011 06:44 pm ET | Updated Dec 21, 2011

Gearing Up for Make A Difference Day 2011

Make A Difference Day is this Saturday, October 22nd! What will you be doing to participate?

Make A Difference Day was started in 1990 by USA WEEKEND Magazine and is celebrated each year on the 4th Saturday in October. It has a 21-year history of bringing people together to tackle small and large needs in their communities.

It is cited as America's largest day of doing good and volunteering thanks to the passion and commitment of millions of people willing to give of themselves and their time. These volunteers include students, families, clubs, church groups, neighbors, corporations, athletes and celebrities doing things such as feeding the hungry, teaching children, repairing homes, as well as thousands of other unique opportunities and ideas about how to volunteer.

As they say, "Together with long-standing partner HandsOn Network, the generosity of Newman's Own and hundreds of carrier newspapers, USA WEEKEND rallies millions in a single day to help change the world."

You might have begun hearing about Make A Difference day this year through the newest partner of the effort -- NBC News. There have been inspirational messages from the NBC anchors in USA Weekend Magazine and details about the effort on the NBC Nightly News.

The company started by Paul Newman (Newman's Own) is a longtime supporter of Make A Difference Day. In addition to the $130,000 Newman's Own provides to Make A Difference Day honorees, the company will provide Newman's Own cereal to one effort in each state plus the District of Columbia to feed their volunteers on Saturday morning.

The technology world is involved in this effort, too! The Motorola Mobility Foundation created an app called the Make A Difference Day app and is also giving away two Motorola XOOM tablets to projects that register in the DAYtaBank and provide an update on their success after the day.

This is also an opportunity for national recognition for volunteers! By helping others on Make A Difference Day and submitting your project for award consideration you provide your favorite charity an opportunity to receive a $10,000 donation from Newman's Own.

USA WEEKEND Magazine will feature 10 National and three City Award honorees in a special April 2012 issue coinciding with National Volunteer Week, led by Points of Light Institute. Award honorees will receive their awards that month at an event in Washington, D.C.

A $10,000 Encore Award funded by the Gannett Foundation and USA WEEKEND will go to a former national honoree who shows continued excellence in volunteerism.

Check out the Make A Difference Day Facebook page! Share your story, post a photo of what you did to make a difference, and use the hashtag #MDDay11 between October 23 and November 14. You will be eligible to win one of three weekly prizes of $100 gift card or the grand prize of $500.

National Groups that are members of Make A Difference Day Advisory Board:
• First Book
• General Federation of Women's Clubs
Habitat for Humanity
March of Dimes Foundation
National 4-H Council
• National Assembly
• USA Harvest
• Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United State of America
Volunteers of America

If you cannot take on a major project this weekend, there are plenty of opportunities including:

The Girls Scouts have shared ideas for Make A Difference Day. These are simple gifts of service that may be done to fulfill a charitable obligation, work toward a merit badge or simply make a difference by helping in the community! These examples include:

• Canned Food Drive
• Trash Clean-Up
• Helping the Elderly or Sick
• Aluminum Can Drive
• Build a Wheelchair Ramp

Something as simple as cleaning your closet can reap triple benefits! Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago will be collecting coats4kids on November 1st. This simple chore helps you, is helping a nonprofit organization with a charitable activity in the future and ultimately will make a difference to someone by providing a warm coat this winter!

Other ideas to consider for the week include:

• YWCA Week Without Violence (
• Kids Care Week recognizing the power of children to reach out and help others (
• National Character Counts Week
• Chemistry Week
• Forest Products Week
• Pastoral Care Week
• National School Bus Safety Week

Volunteering as a family provides quality time, strengthens communication, and provides opportunities for family members to be role models, while making significant contributions to their communities. Even though this day is geared for families, anyone with an interest to volunteer can join in.

Here are five (5) recommendations and tips on how you can easily participate in Make A Difference Day:
1. Offer to rake an elderly neighbor's yard.
2. Offer to babysit for free to a couple for an evening so they can have a night out.
3. Spend the day cleaning up litter in your community; organize your friends and have fun!
4. Purchase some pumpkins and carving kits; deliver them to families and see the faces of the children light up!
5. Make a commitment to talk with your family about your plans to give back during the holiday season!

Bonus Tip: Create a calendar to track your activities of making a difference!

October 20th, was the original Sweetest Day. It started in 1922 when Herb Kingston, who worked for a candy company in Cleveland, Ohio, organized a day to deliver candy to the sick, shut-ins, and orphans in the city. What a great example to follow in doing something nice for someone else. What will you do to be M.A.D.?

Also, mark Saturday, November 19th on your calendar as this is National Family Volunteer Day. It is designed to show the benefits of families serving together and to introduce community service to youth. National Family Volunteer Day is always held the Saturday before Thanksgiving