1,400 students participate in day of service

By on April 18, 2012

Quinnipiac University’s Big Event keeps getting bigger. On Saturday, April 14, more than 1,400 students participated in the university’s largest community service project ever.

The Big Event has grown each year at Quinnipiac. After beginning with 680 volunteers in 2010, the event has ballooned to 1,469 participants.

The service project, which began at Texas A&M University 29 years ago, is the largest single-day community service program and has grown to a nationwide phenomenon with more than 100 schools participating. Saturday was Quinnipiac’s third year taking part in the event, co-sponsored by the Student Government Association and the Community Action Project.

“Social commentators out there talk about your generation as being selfish, self-absorbed and not concerned about community,” Quinnipiac University President John Lahey said to volunteers. “I wish we could invite all those social commentators to the Big Event here at Quinnipiac University.”

Quinnipiac’s volunteers traveled throughout the New Haven and Hamden area, helping at 93 different locations. Work included anything from washing cars, to painting, to cleaning up around the community.

One group of volunteers went to ConnCan, an education reform advocacy organization. Students went door-to-door informing New Haven residents about the education gap in Connecticut. Madhuri Parris, a Quinnipiac sophomore, said her work with ConnCan took her out of her comfort zone, but she felt good at the end of the day.

“I like the concept of everyone going out as a community,” Parris said. “We thought about something bigger than ourselves.”

Parris didn’t have the opportunity to do community service in high school and had not taken the opportunity in college until Saturday.

“I’ve been so busy for the last two years and haven’t taken the time to give back to the community,” Parris said. “ I always found an excuse, but I’ve realized that all it takes is an hour or two.”

Aside from ConnCan, the Quinnipiac community spent a few hours at various locations in the areas surrounding Hamden.

The university sent 35 volunteers to the Children’s Center of Hamden to do work in just a few hours that “would take us months,” Director of Personnel and Development at the Children’s Center of Hamden Diane Surprenant said.

The Children’s Center of Hamden, a non-profit center that treats children with emotional, behavioral, psychological and social problems, called upon Quinnipiac volunteers for the second consecutive year to assist with gardening, planting, painting and upkeep around the facility.

The center is currently home to almost 100 children and welcomes nearly 100 more for day programs. The organization employs a small staff, but it is often busy with the large number of children who call the center home each day. Surprenant was amazed by the volunteers’ professionalism and greatly appreciated their help.

“We would have to hire a landscaping crew to do a lot of the work that was done today, and that wouldn’t be feasible for us,” Surprenant said.

The Children’s Center of Hamden, as well as other sites, provided volunteers with hard work on Saturday, but was met with few complaints.

“It’s important to volunteer at places that aren’t always the most appealing,” senior Julianne Gardner said. “They usually need the most help.”

Gardner volunteered at the retirement community Elim Park cleaning out storage and sorting hardware for its maintenance department.

“The experience helped me learn the value of hard work,” senior and Elim Park volunteer Erin Hodgson said.

The Big Event gave students the chance to look at the bigger picture and give back to a community they may sometimes clash with.

“This is the most powerful statement that we as a university can make about what a community-minded organization Quinnipiac University is and what a community-minded student body Quinnipiac has,” Lahey said.

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