Meadville Tribune

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June 17, 2013

Make A Difference Day needs storage space

MEADVILLE — Make A Difference Day — Crawford County’s annual day of service that has helped countless residents during its 19 years — is now itself in need of help.

The tools and donated supplies and materials that are used during the all-volunteer Make A Difference Day — stuff that takes up space equivalent to the three-car garage — needs a new home, so event organizers are seeking the donation of free storage space.

The material is currently stored in a building shell owned by the Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department and located just behind the department truck garage on Dunham Road.

The department had intended to use the building for its social hall but discovered after acquiring the land and starting construction that an old, little-known deed restriction prohibited the sale of alcohol in the neighborhood. The rule had been put in place many years ago when a factory existed nearby that ran shifts around the clock.

Because all the property owners in the neighborhood would not agree to waive the restriction, the department had to abandon its plans for a social hall on that site. Eventually, the department acquired land at the corner of Cussewago and Dunham roads and built a social hall that is now operating with a full menu and accepting memberships. Like many other non-profit volunteer fire departments, the Vernon Township plans to generate revenue with the social hall to help run the department.

Chief Chris Reichel estimated the department spent about $500,000 on the new social hall and about $1.5 million, including the legal fees, on the initial site for the social hall. As a result, the department’s board has decided to sell the site of the original social hall — potential buyers can call 336-6018 — which includes the 80-foot by 120-foot building shell with no utilities.

The department had donated use of the shell to Make A Difference Day at no cost, but Reichel explained that the department now needs to recoup some of the money spent establishing the social hall.

Make A Difference Day volunteer and supplies manager Tom Chalmers certainly understands the department’s position.

“We are very grateful for the time we’ve had with Vernon Township,” Chalmers said. “It has been a lifesaver for the past three years.”

He is now looking for a similarly generous organization or individual to step forward to donate free space.

Chalmers said the space is needed to store cleaning supplies, tools, rakes, shovels, garden tools, plumbing supplies, paint, flooring, bathroom vanities and cabinets. Many of the items come from longtime donor The Home Depot, he said.

Utilities to the space are not necessary but would be nice, Chalmers said. Ideally, the space would be near Meadville and have easy access for dropping off and removing supplies. Volunteers generally access the supplies once a week outside of the fall, when traffic increases due to the October Make A Difference Day, he explained.

The volunteers are covered by an insurance policy through Make A Difference Day organizer the United Way of Western Crawford County, according to United Way Executive Director Amy Murphy-Woods. She said there is also coverage on the supplies themselves.

Anyone interested in donating space is asked to call the United Way of Western Crawford County at 337-1251 or amwoods@uwaywestcc.org.

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