A day set aside for making a difference

HANCOCK – Although Debbie Mann was hoping to get about 1,000 volunteers for Make A Difference Day in Hancock Saturday, the 400 people she estimated would show up did help with the effort to clean up Hancock.

“When you think about it, it’s 10 percent of the population of Hancock,” she said.

Not all of the volunteers showed up on Saturday, Mann said. Some did projects other days of the week.

Begun more than 20 years ago by the creators of USA Weekend Magazine and the Points of Light volunteer organization, there are thousands of projects in communities around the country attracting volunteers, according to the Make ADifference Day website

Mann, who is a member of the Hancock planning commission, and organizer for Make A Difference Day, said when she lived in Appleton, Wis., she would often read about Make A Difference Day in the weekend Parade Magazine.

Mann said there was a list of 15 project sites for volunteers to work on Saturday, mostly picking up leaves and trash.

“(The clean-up project) coincides with the long-term beautification of Hancock,” she said.

Bonnie Holland, executive director of the Finlandia University Jutila Center for Global Design and Business, who is also a member of the Hancock Downtown Development Authority, said some of the people involved with the MADD Saturday were also people who helped with a similar effort before last summer’s FinnFest and Hancock’s sesquicentennial celebration.

“It’s so exciting to see it’s captured the interest of people in Hancock that they want to continue the effort,” she said.

The Hancock Make A Difference Day effort was registered with the national organization. There is a possible $10,000 for the best effort, but Mann said the main reason for the local event was to get people, particularly young people, to develop a sense of pride and ownership in the city.

Saturday was cold with a chance of rain and snow, but Holland said that didn’t seem to matter to the people who showed up to work.

“Everybody is dressed warmly and ready to work,” she said.

One of those warmly dressed volunteers was Michigan Technological University student and Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity member Charles Dunham, who said he has been involved with MADD in the past.

“This is actually my sixth time doing this,” he said. “It’s fun to help the community.”

Dunham said the STG members were going to work on repairing two crossings over the Swedetown Creek on the Maasto Hiihto cross country ski trail.

Drew Cederquist, another STG member, said he also did MADD last year when he chopped fire wood for Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s fun to give back.”

Members of the Hancock Central High School hockey team were cleaning up at the waterfront, including Porvoo Park and along the Department of Natural Resources Recreation Trail, and team member Hayden Heikkinen said the city has helped out the team in the past.

“They do a lot for us, so we wanted to give back,” he said.

Also working on the waterfront was Hancock City Councilman Barry Givens, who said the effort by MADD volunteers is greatly appreciated by the council members. “We (have to) take pride in our city,” he said. “You (have to) get your hands dirty.”

Tech student Christina Villerot, who was picking up trash on Hancock Street, said she thought taking part in MADD was a good way to be supportive of the community. “It’s a good service opportunity,” she said.

Mann said she was very pleased with how many people decided to take part in the Hancock Make A Difference Day.

“I’m really amazed at the turnout,” she said.