Volunteers 'pay it forward' during Make a Difference Day - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Volunteers 'pay it forward' during Make a Difference Day


Thousands of Iowans volunteered their time and effort Saturday to help their communities as part of Make a Difference Day.

The national event has been around for more than 20 years and has special meaning in the Dubuque area.

Saturday morning, Adele Lenane welcomed some 30 people into her Dubuque home to do the tasks she can no longer do on her own.

"I literally can't do most of the stuff physically myself, so I don't have the stamina some days and the balance is a big issue," Lenane said.

Using their helping hands, these volunteers did everything from paint Lenane's kitchen and garage to weeding the garden and uncluttering the basement.

As part of Dubuque's Andrew Connolly Make a Difference Day, nearly 500 volunteers went to more than 50 work sites in an effort to pay it forward.

Paying it forward was the mission of Andrew Connolly, for whom Dubuque's Make a Difference Day is named. He was a Dubuque U.S. Army veteran, who died in 2011 of cancer linked to his military service. Before dying, Connolly testified before Congress, encouraging legislators to pass the Veterans Housing Act, which would extend for 10 years an adaptive housing grant program that helps injured and disabled vets make their homes disability-accessible. The act became law 11 months after Connolly's death.

Jenny Connolly is his widow and his been a fierce advocate of spreading the mission of helping others.

"When Andrew was diagnosed with cancer, we just had an abundance of help, so Andrew, with the time he had left, wanted to pay it forward," Connolly said. "That's kind of what our mission was after he passed away was to continue to pay it forward in his honor."

To see the effects of paying it forward, one had to look no further Saturday than Lenane's beaming face.

"It's a dream, actually. You're fulfilling dreams here," Lenane said, who particularly loved her kitchen's bright yellow paint job volunteers completed.

"I don't think it's just the people that are receiving the service that are appreciative," Connolly said. "The people that are out there serving come back with a whole new outlook, too."

This is Dubuque's seventh annual Make a Difference Day, although it's the first year of joining forces with the Andrew Connolly Day of Service. That started three years ago, and both efforts' organizers decided to team up for 2013 and call it the Andrew Connolly Make a Difference Day.

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