Make a Difference Day began small 17 years ago, but has blossomed into the largest volunteer effort in the country.
It is upon us again, this Saturday.
Marilyn Pelkey, executive director of the Volunteer Center of Racine County -- major domo of all the activities this year -- expects anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 people to come out and spend a few hours helping others, or sprucing up their communities or neighborhoods.
Young and old will find plenty to do.
Coat and clothing drives, beautification efforts, various restoration projects head the list of organized opportunities, but this is also a time for people to "get out and, one person at a time, make a difference: with a project, or on your own helping a neighbor, maybe chatting with a shut-in who would just love a visitor, or helping an elderly person down the street," Ms. Pelkey said.
"This is also great family time; we've had babies in backpacks. Children as young as two or three can go down to Kids' Cove and pick up trash. Teach them and at the same time make Racine beautiful and better."
One new project this year is the collection of outdated prescription drugs, to prevent potentially hazardous materials from being discarded into landfills and water supplies. There will be two collection points, each supervised by pharmacists: at 6200 21st St. in Racine, and at 123 N. River St. in Waterford.
The Young Professionals of Racine recently adopted the riverbanks in Washington Park as part of the city's Adopt-a River program. They'll make their initial clean sweep of the park Saturday morning, followed by a cookout.
As many as 10,000 people have been involved in Racine's effort in past years; the number depends upon the weather, and on how many schools get fully involved. Two Racine schools this year that did major projects are Jefferson Lighthouse, which cleaned up its neighborhood, and Walden, whose students completed a number of projects from cleaning up the Cop Houses to harvesting geraniums students had previously planted so they can survive the winter and be replanted on Earth Day in neighborhood parks.
Go here for the Volunteer Center's list of major projects.