Brian Pekari, founder and director of Tracy United to Make a Difference, said the local event was an effort to get Tracy residents more involved in helping their neighbors.
“The whole concept of our Make a Difference Day is uniting our city — uniting people through volunteering, cooperation and communication and uplift the community,” Pekari said.
Volunteers around the United States worked on Make a Difference Day projects on Saturday to improve people’s lives.
A ribbon cutting at 10th and B streets opened the Tracy event as groups signed up volunteers to help with their projects.
June Yasemsky, a teacher at Hirsch Elementary School, ran two booths that offered free formal clothes and school supplies.
Hirsch students and parents collected dresses, suits and ties through a school clothing drive. The dress-up clothes were intended for children whose families could not afford formal outfits.
Yasemsky said her students had wanted to do something to help other local children.
“I think they see themselves as capable of making a change in the community,” Yasemsky said. “I take pictures so they can see the faces of the kids they help.”
She also organized a collection of surplus school supplies that were given away.
Carol Higgins, a children’s tutor, stopped by the booth to pick up some math materials.
“This is awesome — if parents come through, it will be a big help,” Higgins said. “It’s a huge resource.”
The donations were among several efforts that began in early October. Pekari said a variety of community projects started before Make a Difference Day and will continue through November, including holiday food and clothing drives.
More than a dozen schools and two dozen community organizations and nonprofits participated, amounting to more than 500 individual volunteers, Pekari said.
Some volunteers staffed a haunted house at West Valley Mall benefiting the United Way, and high school students collected donations for UNICEF and the Tracy Unified School District anti-bullying program.
Pekari said he hoped the volunteer spirit would continue.
“We’re encouraging people through the month of November to get involved in the community,” Pekari said.
Becki Brown, of Scoop Ministries Inc. and Hearts of Harvest Foundation, recruited volunteers Saturday to help make fleece blankets for families of children with heart disease. Each blanket is tucked into a bag of travel necessities that the families can take with them to the hospital.
“Anything they can do will help,” Brown said. “We show people we care about them and touch their hearts.”
Brown was taking part in Make a Difference Day for the first time after meeting Pekari at a Tracy Chamber of Commerce event.
“It brings awareness how giving our community is,” she said.
Pekari said the volunteer efforts on Saturday were a success.
“It was icing on the cake, trying to encourage and influence more people to get involved,” Pekari said. “Our goal when we got started was to bring all the pieces of the community together — school, businesses, churches and organizations — and that’s what we have done.”
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.