Students give back for ‘Make a Difference Day’ amid pandemic

Student and staff volunteers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will give back to the community on Saturday, April 17, preparing the homes of local older adults for spring.

UWM will send 300 volunteers to 70 homes throughout Milwaukee. Volunteers from Marquette University will assist elders at 10 additional homes.

This event, “Make a Difference Day,” is an opportunity for students and staff to volunteer, serve their community and demonstrate their dedication to civic life and social responsibility.

The volunteers will assist older adults with tasks such as raking leaves, clearing garden beds, setting up patios and taking out storm windows.

This service event will take place outdoors only, and volunteers are required to wear face masks and practice social distancing to comply with current federal, state, city and university health orders related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The elders served on Make a Difference Day are clients of Eras Senior Network and Eastside Senior Services, both local nonprofit organizations that strive to help older adults lead meaningful lives in a safe and dignified manner. UW-Milwaukee coordinates this event twice a year, and has been assisting local older adults with this seasonal work for over a decade. In years prior to the pandemic, over 100 homes were assigned each fall and spring.

Kathy Gale, executive director of Eras, said the agency is grateful for the continued support UWM and Marquette provides to older adults throughout the Milwaukee County.

“The efforts of UWM and Marquette students make it possible for older adults to continue living safely in their homes,” Gale said. “Make a Difference Day continues a long tradition of service that older adults look forward to each year, not only for help transitioning homes from the summer, but also to enjoy the intergenerational friendships.”

Laurie Marks, executive director at the UWM Center for Community-Based Learning, Leadership, and Research, said the experience benefits the students as well.

“Our students gain as much as they give. They learn and explore the city, they connect and network with community members, they begin to develop a civic identity, and more,” Marks said. “So much is gained when we can work with nonprofit agencies; they provide a classroom outside of the classroom.”

Interview opportunities
Interviews with Make a Difference Day participants, including staff, student volunteers and homeowners, are available from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 17. For more information, contact Elise Jaffee, student services specialist for the Center for Community-Based Learning, Leadership, and Research at UWM, at