Quinnipiac University’s Big Event grants students, faculty and alumni the opportunity to give back to Hamden and the surrounding communities in a day filled with community service.
The Big Event began 37 years ago at Texas A&M University and is now the largest student-run service project in the United States. Quinnipiac held its first Big Event in 2010 under the leadership of Jen Walts, the former vice president for public relations of the Quinnipiac Student Government Association (SGA).
Community service projects done through the Big Event include anything from cleaning at an animal shelter to raking leaves. Each person completes around three hours of community service at his or her location. While three hours is not a significant amount of time, between 1,400 and 1,600 people participate in the Big Event annually.
“If we have like 1,500 volunteers and if we do three hours per person, that’s like 4,500 hours plus hours of volunteering done in one day,” said Shane Grant, co-director of the Big Event.
Each location, which can be anywhere within a 30-minute radius of the Mount Carmel campus, has a set number of volunteers for specific tasks agreed upon prior to the Big Event. Some previous locations include Camp Cedar Crest in Orange, Connecticut, senior centers and animal shelters.
Volunteers get assigned to certain locations by numbers and previous experiences. Each location only needs a certain number of volunteers, so teams with that amount of people are more likely to be assigned to that location. Some volunteering teams also return to the same location every year, strengthening the bond between the volunteers and the organizations.
“It makes a difference to them, not even just the residents, but the organizations that these nonprofits help. They really feel the lasting impact,” said Alyssa Lawson, one of the chairs in the community outreach program. “So even though it’s only three hours for us, it makes a difference for them for their whole year.”
Alongside the community service, the Big Event executive board also organizes speakers such as the president of the university, the president of SGA and other notable people on campus. Food is provided for volunteers as well.
“What (the volunteers are) doing is really helpful,” said Rebecca Vangsness, co-chair for event logistics for the Big Event. “They may not realize that raking is going to change someone’s life, but when you put 20 people in one site and have them do work for three hours, it does make a huge difference for these people.We get so many letters from the sites and from the people of these non-profit organizations and they’re just so grateful and they want us to tell the university how grateful they are from the service that we do.”
The 2020 Big Event will be on April 4. Registration forms for team captains, team participants and individuals can be found on the Big Event’s page on Do You QU and on its Instagram page: @QuinnipiacBigEvent. Participants must register prior to the day of the event for location assignments. Students can also get involved by joining the Big Event organization or applying to be a member of one of the executive board committees.