It’s time to go M.A.D. volunteering

Oct. 25 will be a life-changing day for many. Millions of volunteers will unite across the country to work for different causes. Volunteers in Southwest Florida are not the exception. Their volunteering will not only have an impact on the lives they are helping, but on their own lives as well.
Florida Gulf Coast University’s third annual Make a Difference Day will be held from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25. M.A.D.D. is possible in FGCU thanks to a generous grant from Wells Fargo every year, as well as e University Advancement and the Alumni Association. This is an event that allows FGCU students, alumni, faculty, staff members and Wells Fargo employees to volunteer together at different agencies. This year, the volunteering will take place in nine agencies off campus and three agencies on campus.
National M.A.D.D. was created by USA Weekend magazine, with the collaboration of Points of Light, an international nonprofit, nonpartisan organization headquartered in the United States dedicated to volunteer service. M.A.D.D. is an annual community service event across the country and is traditionally held on the fourth Saturday of October.
The day kicks off when President Wilson Bradshaw and other speakers address the participants. Breakfast, lunch and shirts will be available for volunteers. A group picture will be taken. The volunteers will then proceed to agencies off-campus by bus or to an on-campus site until 1 p.m.
According to program assistant Kelsey Wilkinson, last year’s M.A.D.D. had more than 300 participants who served at 11 agencies for more than 1,000 combined hours. This year, 350 participants are expected to serve at 12 agencies for more than a 1,200 combined hours of service.
“The opportunity to take part in service to the community in which we live is not only a positive action that will have a positive benefit on those we serve, but it will also have a positive benefit to those doing the service,” Wilkinson said.
The volunteers will be working on different projects at the agencies. The agencies off campus this year are Easter Seals Lily Academy, Gulf Coast Humane Society, Harry Chapin Food Bank, Quality Life Center, Heights Foundation (and neighborhood), Gladiolus Food pantry in partnership with the Harlem Heights Improvement Association, Salvation Army and Vester Marine and Environmental Science Research Field Station. The on-campus agencies this year are the FGCU Campus Physical Plant, Family Resource Center and Food Forest.
Jessica Rhea, director of community engagement at FGCU, has been organizing M.A.D.D. since the first year in 2012. “Our FGCU mission states that we are a university that values public service and encourages civic responsibility. M.A.D.D. is one of the ways we show our community that we don’t just talk this talk, we walk this walk: Go Out and Go M.A.D.” Rhea said.
Tatiana Rodriguez, junior marketing major, has volunteered in different agencies since M.A.D.D. started at FGCU. “My freshman year was the first year of Make a Difference Day. I loved it so much that I wanted to continue doing it every year.” Rodriguez said. “It has become a tradition. It makes me feel very proud to be a student here at FGCU.”
“One of my takeaways from this amazing event — it’s to appreciate all the hard work we all do for a common goal.” Rodriguez said about her experience in M.A.D.D.
Daniel Hernandez, a senior business management major, has volunteered every year M.A.D.D. started. This will be his third year volunteering at the Harry Chapin Food Bank. “I strongly believe in helping the hungry and homeless.” Hernandez said.
When asked what his favorite part of M.A.D.D was, he said, “Being able to help and hopefully have an impact on someone and inspiring them to help others.” Hernandez said.
“Developing event planning skills, meeting new people, working outside, having a feeling of connectedness” are only a few of the aspects Danielle Benson, a junior nursing major, mentions about her work in M.A.D.D. She worked to help plan the tree planting/campus beautification site last year, and will continue doing so this year as well.
“The immense support that many individuals, and staff/faculty members, provide to unconditionally support students to accomplish their goals and/or aspirations.” Benson said as to what surprises her the most.
Students, faculty, staff and alumni who wish to participate can register by visiting the FGCU Service-Learning Facebook page or The last day to register is Friday, Oct. 17 at midnight.