On Saturday, millions of Americans gathered in communities across the country to participate in Make A Difference Day. In its 20 year history, this day of national service has become the largest of its kind with service projects taking place in communities large and small across the United States.
Thousands of Iowans participated in projects across Iowa. In Dubuque, the project was especially poignant as it honored one of its own. The Andrew Connolly Make A Difference Day took place in memory of a Dubuque native who was committed to making a difference in his community.
When Andrew, an Army veteran, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in his spinal cord after returning home from his service in Iraq, he knew he faced an uphill battle. Throughout his illness, he was an inspiration. He looked past the incredible challenges ahead and instead chose to focus on "paying it forward" looking for the good in people and making a difference in the lives of those who needed a little help getting back on their feet.
Since his passing in August 2011, Dubuque residents have held a day of service in his memory and his commitment to helping those around him. This year, hundreds of Dubuque volunteers helped veterans, senior citizens and others with household chores, yard work and weatherization projects.
Helping our neighbors doesn't happen on just one Saturday in October; Iowans do it throughout the year. Whatever we volunteer as Iowans to help others, we are reminded of what can be achieved when people come together to work for a common goal and "pay it forward."
Each of us has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors by reaching out to lend a helping hand. We're reminded that it's small acts like these that are the essence of public service and the essence of what makes communities across Iowa so strong.