By Cecily Markland
In October, hundreds of Latter-day Saints from stakes across the Valley, joined with members of the community, hoping to make a difference.
The annual Make a Difference Day is designated as a day of service and of coming together to cleanup and beautify neighborhoods, lend a helping hand and provide needed manpower for community projects and events.
While some wards and stakes initiated projects of their own, other LDS groups participated in projects organized by their city or by other organizations.
In Chandler, Make a Difference Day has been adopted as part of For Our City Day. According to Judy Ramos, with City of Chandler Neighborhood Resources, each year, city directors submit ideas for projects. This year, for the third annual For Our City Day, the project selected was adjacent to the Chandler City Airport, where volunteers assisted with a landscape beautification project and cleanup, designed to also provide “visual enhancement for approximately one-quarter mile stretch of land along the Paseo Trail,” Judy says. Members of the Chandler stakes worked alongside neighbors and other community members.
“It was a nice event, a very, very nice event,” Judy says. “The volunteers made a significant difference in the area.”
According to City of Mesa volunteer manager, Michelle Alvis, Mesa had approximately 1,500 volunteers, who turned out to complete projects throughout the city—everything from park and alley cleanup to wall painting projects, from graffiti reporting to distribution of fire safety bags, “sweeping” and removal of old signs to tire collection.
The YSA West Stake completed nine of those projects, including cleanup at a park and re-painting curb numbers. Other stakes participating in projects in Mesa, each of them completing multiple projects, were the Maricopa North Stake, the Kimball Stake and the Mesa Citrus Heights Stake.
Roger Decker, then a member of the high council, now Young Men president in the Citrus Heights Stake, organized the Make a Difference Day involvement. He says it was gratifying to see approximately 175 stake members participate. “Many came as families, a lot with younger kids.” Participants were divided into groups, and each group was assigned a leader. Most of the leaders, says Brother Decker, “were Young Men. They showed excellent leadership and made sure what we wanted to do got done.”
In the Alta Mesa Stake, Phil Montalvo, was participating in Make a Difference Day for the third time, the second as the high council representative over community service. Brother Montalvo says two Eagle Scout candidates completed their projects as part of the stake’s overall efforts on Make a Difference Day. The project for Mason Reis, 17, of the Mountain Vista Ward, was to clean an easement and canal on the site of a future park that will be within their ward boundaries. “It was like a miniature jungle,” he says, but after the cleanup, “I think it turned out really well,” Mason says. “It was different playing the role of the leader. It was nice, refreshing.”
The second Eagle Scout candidate was Ryan Montalvo, 14. For his project, 30 ward members and 20 neighbors helped paint an 1,800-foot wall on 80th Street in Mesa. “It looked a lot nicer,” Ryan says. “The residents of the neighborhood thanked me. They were really appreciative.”
In yet another Make a Difference Day project, the Mesa Arizona YSA East Stake helped with the Down Syndrome Walk at Tempe Diablo Stadium. According to Heather Sandstrom, whose husband, Paul, is the stake president, approximately 500 single adults helped from about 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. to pass out balloons, water and refreshments, as well as providing encouragement to the hundreds participating in the walk.