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Editorial: We can all make a difference

November 8, 2018

Making a difference.

In big ways or small, it’s something almost everyone can try to do.

Throw some change in a collection can at the convenience store cash register. Hold the door for someone going into work. Sign a petition.

People may have a personal instinct for survival, but we also have a natural drive to do the best we can for each other when the opportunity arises.

That’s what students at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg did Saturday when the drive to help sent them into the community for the annual Pitt Make a Difference Day.

They definitely made a difference for the family that will end up living in the Habitat for Humanity house in Hempfield.

Then there were the people volunteering at Goodwill, the ones picking up trash along local roads, the others lending a hand at Wildlife Works animal rehabilitation facility in Youngwood.

There are 2,661 nonprofit organizations in Westmoreland County, from 4-H to the YWCA. There are another 18,847 in Allegheny County, more than any other county in Pennsylvania. That means thousands and thousands of chances to harness our inborn inclination to help.

Imagine what a difference we could make if everyone in Westmoreland County followed those Pitt student footsteps. Imagine what we could do if we all picked a cause and did what we could.

Volunteers are the resource most nonprofits say they need most. While we all want to help someone, it’s easy to let work and daily commitments get in the way. But there are real reasons to make the effort, and some of them go beyond that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from doing a good deed. There are skills you can develop, networking that can improve your resume and even health perks like exercise and lowered stress, according to Habitat for Humanity.

Volunteer hours can also help nonprofits in monetary ways. Aside from the fact that your free labor means not paying someone else to do a job, there is the dollar amount it can translate to on some grant applications, which can often count volunteer time toward a group’s financial match.

So how do you start your own personal Make a Difference effort? Just reach out. Chances are you know an organization that needs a hand. Churches, youth groups, hospitals, schools. Almost every group out there fighting the good fight can use more people doing the work. If you need a little help nailing an opportunity down, the Westmoreland Association of Volunteer Administrators has you covered. WAVA’s website, www.volunteerwestmoreland.org, offers guidance.

But there is nothing better than just rolling up your sleeves and diving in and doing what needs to be done. That’s what really makes a difference.

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