Among the millions who participated nationwide in Make a Difference Day were several hundred affiliated with the College of Lake County.
Besides students and faculty, participants included Lake County residents, teens, children and one four-legged Chihuahua-miniature pinscher mix who scampered through the community garden while volunteers cleaned and winterized planting beds.
"Three million people in America are volunteering and we are 211 of them," said Carolyn Serdar, service learning coordinator for the college, which on Saturday welcomed its largest volunteer force in 15 years.
After a complimentary breakfast, volunteers spread out across campus. In the atrium, clients of the Women's Center, which provides networking, referrals, outreach and emergency assistance to students, joined others in making centerpieces and ornaments that the center will sell to help fund its programs.
"It gives (the clients) a chance to give back, which is one of the things clients are always asking to do," said Tammy Burns, a center employee.
Giving back motivated Shama Khan, a College of Lake County student from Grayslake, who says center employees helped her when her husband was out of work.
"I wanted to do something for women who've had a hard time," said Khan, who was accompanied by her daughter and her father, who with her mother taught Khan the importance of service.
Some participated to satisfy CLC course requirements. English professor Cathy Colton has included a service component in her composition class curriculum for 15 years and has participated in Make a Difference Day on and off for eight years. She does it to expand the parameters of research beyond textbooks and journals.
"We learn from experience," said Colton, whose students will incorporate their volunteer experience into papers and group projects later this semester.
In the Children's Learning Center, 24-year-old Renee Bohl of Round Lake Beach and 20-year-old Kyle Justus of Mundelein scrubbed and disinfected toys.
"It's good for the community and it's good for yourself," said Justus.
"I love doing it," agreed Bohl, whose community service began when she was in Girl Scouts. "I always feel great after a day of volunteering."
This marked the first time students Eevon Swilley, 19, and Adriana Ramirez, 20, participated in Make a Difference Day. But the Target co-workers volunteer regularly for programs sponsored by the company.
"There's something about doing things for other people without being asked," said Swilley, of North Chicago.
Still, "lots of people have to be encouraged," said the CLC student who alone raised her hand when her teacher asked for Make A Difference Day volunteers.
"They need a little push," agreed Ramirez, a St. Xavier University student who admits after working until 11 p.m. Friday, sleeping late would have been nice.
But sleeping in accomplishes nothing, interjected Swilley. "What good does that do for someone?"
In the community garden, more than 40 volunteers harvested produce for the Avon Township food pantry, helped restore a hedgerow and cleared out the beds.
"It's a nice day to be out here," said 20-year-old Antioch resident Salvador Juarez, who worked alongside fellow CLC student Joe Hamamoto, 18, of Spring Grove.
Hamamoto usually concentrates his efforts close to home, mowing neighbors' lawns and shoveling their driveways, "whatever we can do to help the community," he said.
"Taking it on yourself (to help); it's the right thing to do," said Juarez.