More than 75 volunteers armed with tools and paintbrushes arrived at a dilapidated Long Beach home early Saturday morning to help renovate it as part of Make a Difference Day, the nation’s biggest day of community service.
Every year on the fourth Saturday of October, millions of volunteers take part in thousands of projects across the country to help low-income, elderly and disabled people in need, according to the Make a Difference Day website.
Cal State Long Beach students joined volunteers from the Long Beach Police Department, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and the community to work for the local nonprofit Rebuilding Together Long Beach (RTLB), which participates in Make A Difference Day every year.
The nonprofit has partnered with CSULB Student Life and Development for Make a Difference Day since 2001, said Mary Anne Rose, CSULB’s director of graduate studies in the College of Education.
Rose became involved with RTLB at Make a Difference Day in 2005 and became president of RTLB in 2010.
“Mrs. Reece, whose home we’re working on, is a retired teacher,” Rose said. “She’s had three major back surgeries and four knee surgeries.”
The house was labeled a safety hazard by the City of Long Beach and was in the process of being repossessed, RTLB Treasurer Debbie Marr-Leisy said. She said RTLB’s work on the home, including replacing the 30-year-old roof and cutting back trees prior to Make a Difference Day, prevented it from being repossessed.
The volunteers provided finishing touches by cleaning up the yard, repairing the fence and painting the exterior of the house.
Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell said that when he arrived, the backyard was barely visible.
“When I got here, the whole backyard was covered in debris … It was piled high,” he said. “Now [when] you look at it, it’s an amazing difference what a lot of people and a lot of hands can make in a short time.”
Junior hospitality management major Tamina Krummel said the house had looked deserted and uninhabitable and that volunteering for Make a Difference Day was a valuable experience.
“You’re not only doing something for the house and the person who lives here, you do it for yourself,” Krummel said. “You can really say that you’ve done something today.”
According to McDonnell, about 10 members of the LBPD came out to help with the event.
“It’s a great cause to come out here and help somebody, make the community better and help an individual’s life to be a lot better,” McDonnell said. “I think that a lot of the young people here today have never held a tool … We all learn together, we all see how a few hands can make a big difference.”
McDonnell said the project was not only a community service opportunity but also a networking opportunity, which allowed volunteers to meet others from the community, such as the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California André Birotte.
“In the work that we do, more often than not, we see people at their worst,” Birotte said. “This is an opportunity to see people at their best, trying to help and come together to just engage with their community.”
To learn more about volunteering opportunities, contact Student Life and Development at (562) 985-4181 or [email protected].