Pictured above are Alabamian staff members working hard at a Montevallo community garden site. Photo by Kat Bell

The morning of Saturday, April 6, marked the ninth iteration of The Big Event at UM. This volunteer opportunity is not only the largest student life event on UM’s campus, but the largest, one-day, student-run service project in the nation. 

Kicking off the day of community service was speaker Jennifer Lane, an adjunct faculty member for the Department of Theatre.  

“In some way or another, you’re going to go up to someone and encourage them,” said Lane. She went on to liken community service to the five love languages, stating that knowing what encourages you allows others to help you, and vice-versa.  

This year, 25 student organizations participated in The Big Event, including sports teams, Greek organizations, student publications and other interest-specific clubs like URGE, the Environmental Club and a group representing Gold Side.  

At UM, over one-fifth of undergraduate students participate annually, completing between 30 and 40 community jobs. 

Typical tasks during The Big Event include yard work, window washing, painting and the list goes on. For instance, E-Club assisted with the Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge cleanup, picking up litter and sorting out aluminum cans for recycling.  

“I thoroughly enjoyed helping clean up the refuge,” said E-Club Co-President Sara Walley. “It made me feel proud, but also sad at the same time since people thought it acceptable to dump garbage in nature.”  

Members of Alpha Delta Pi aided a Montevallo community member in cleaning up yard landscaping by weeding gardens and fixing a fish pond.  

“The Big Event really connects the University students to the community and I think it’s a great bridge to connect the gap,” said ADPi member and senior COMS major Maggie Jo Benson.  

Over the years, The Big Event has spread to more than 100 schools across the country and even internationally to schools in Italy, Germany, Spain and Pakistan. However, its origins can be traced to Texas A&M. 

In 1982, Joe Nussbaum, then vice president of SGA at Texas A&M, sought to give thanks to the University’s surrounding community in a one-day blowout of service projects. The event has since evolved into the phenomenon it is currently, allowing UM to further connect to its host city.  

“It’s important for us to give back to the community of Montevallo because they give so much to us,” said Tori Irvin, SGA president. “Montevallo feels like home and so much of that comes from the off-campus community. The Big Event is a day for us to show our appreciation to the town that we get to call home for a little while.”