A&M’s “Big Event” Saturday Marks 31 Years Of Community Service

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COLLEGE STATION, March 18, 2013 – Call it a labor of love or an act of gratitude, but an estimated record 19,000 Texas A&M University students are scheduled to work on 1,970 jobs Saturday (March 23) in their annual Big Event community service project.

Big Event — the largest one-day student-run service project in the nation — began with just six Aggies in 1982 who volunteered to clean up a local cemetery. The students planning the Big Event say they have as their goal making this the biggest year yet and the best. They add that Big Event is in its 31st year, but those working to bring it about have a total of more than 35 years of experience.

Bright and early Saturday, those legions of Texas A&M students — including football players and other varsity athletes, members of the Corps of Cadets, representatives of many of the university’s 800 clubs, fraternities and sororities, as well as scores of individuals — will pick up paint and brushes, rakes, shovels and other tools and fan out across the Bryan-College Station community to tackle fix-up, pick-up and work on projects as a way to say “thank you” to the community that hosts them during their days at Texas A&M.

The student leaders who work on this year’s Big Event say they have expanded the leadership staff and made improvements to the process. They believe this will give participating students even more experience in learning community service. These leaders are ready to begin and say they “can’t wait to see the Aggie Spirit in action.”

Chrisleigh Jones, Big Event assistant director, says this may be the only time of the year where local residents can directly interact with Texas A&M students.

“This one day of service is unique in that it not only provides free help to residents, but also bridges the gap between residents and students,” she adds. “It helps make this community stronger and more unified. The Big Event provides relationships to residents eager to know students, and for the students, it provides the opportunity to put the Aggie Spirit, and Texas A&M’s core value of selfless service, into action.”

Local residents such as Bill and Pam Maddox have experienced that spirit first hand. “We have had the students at our home for many years. They have always exhibited the Aggie Spirit in all ways. They have worked hard and truly been a pleasure to be around. Several homes in our neighborhood also have the students from Big Event and have said the same things,” they add.

In addition to being a big hit with appreciative residents, Texas A&M’s Big Event has served as a model and inspiration for an estimated 75 similar events conducted by other universities throughout the nation.

These universities learned of Big Event while attending a conference at Texas A&M each year. The conference is planned as a way to help other schools plan their own Big Event and it gives participants an opportunity to get advice from the Aggies and other schools. The outreach committee manages relationships with these other universities as well as The Big Event’s national public relations.

“Part of that outreach is the idea of The One Big Day. This campaign is to have every school holding a Big Event across the nation to join together to hold one annual day dedicated to community service,” says Ashley McNew, Big Event outreach director.

Joe Nussbaum ’84 was one of those first six Aggie volunteers at the first Big Event and he had a hand in its evolution. In 1982 he was a leader in Texas A&M’s Student Government Association along with his friend Evan Secor ’84. Another friend, Becky Bristol ’86 (now Becky Nussbaum), served as the first Big Event publicity director.

Aggies are always passionate about helping wherever they can and, once the idea of Big Event took shape, other student organizations wanted in on the service project. In fact, when it came time to plan the second Big Event, there were more volunteers than there were projects so Nussbaum and the others began hunting for jobs to do.

Like those enthusiastic Aggies in 1982, Jones hopes the students helping with Big Event this year will recognize the importance of community service.

“Service is not only something to be completed on one day, but it is a mindset that I hope will be instilled in everyone who participates on that one day, she explains. “I envision The Big Event being one day that starts the development of long-term relationships between all those involved.”

From those first six student 31 years ago, Big Event comes to fruition each year with a committee of more than 200 students spending a year planning the monumental undertaking with a meticulous attention to detail that would have done the generals who planned D-Day proud. Like those generals, they have a mission clearly defined by a simple statement: One big day….one big thanks…. one Big Event.