Roughly 500 students gathered to perform outdoor chores for nearly 100 homes across Pittsburg and Frontenac for Pitt State’s 16th annual Big Event.
The event began at 9:30 a.m. in the Weede Physical Education Building Saturday, April 14, where University President Steve Scott addressed and thanked the students before they were given their assignments. Volunteers then spent their morning cleaning up lawns and gardens in addition to doing other exterior work for fellow community members. This year’s event was organized and under the supervision of Student Government Association (SGA) Big Event Director Desirae Hunt, senior in management and marketing.
“Everyone has said it’s been possibly the most organized Big Event that we’ve seen in the past five years at least,” Hunt said. “Everyone’s been so overwhelmingly supportive, everyone has said it went wonderful. I haven’t heard a single negative comment, so I’m really happy about that.”
The Big Event was sponsored by the SGA and local businesses such as Daylight Donuts, Jimmy John’s, and WCA Waste, who provided gifts-in-kind in the form of food, tools, and supplies for the volunteers. Many campus organizations also helped promote the event, encouraging their members to volunteer.
“This is my third event,” said Kirsten Mitchell, senior in nursing. “It’s always been a requirement for my sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha (ΑΣΑ), but I’ve enjoyed it every time I do it. It’s not so much about the mandatory thing, it’s about coming and helping the community. I did it with the Kansas Association of Nursing Students this year. It was nice to get together with other senior nursing students and do it.”
According to Nicole Biggins, senior majoring in finance and ΑΣΑ member, feeling the appreciation from the community is part of the attraction.
“We get service hours, but also I think it’s kind of cool just like, seeing how people are so thankful about everything,” she said.
In addition to the “free food and free t-shirts”, Hunt believes putting a face to the community is what draws students to volunteer for the Big Event. Many of the participating homeowners are PSU graduates or donors, and oftentimes are elderly or people with disabilities.
“… the homeowners are always so grateful and they’re very giving to the students,” Hunt said. “The students are really there for a good time, just trying to help out and they get so much more in return than they expect… Sometimes they even make us cookies, and I know one homeowner he made hotdogs for this big group of guys, like 10-15 guys that went out there, and he’s like, ‘I just want to make some food for them. Tell me how many people are coming.’… The generosity factor is insane.”
Set to graduate in May, Hunt hopes after spending years serving as a volunteer, staff, and now director, the Big Event will continue to reinforce the idea of “Once a gorilla. Always a gorilla.”
“It speaks volumes about Pitt State and the community, and how it’s literally the word ‘community’ defined,” she said. “You see that every year consistently that students take time out their Saturday morning, as early as we get up, to go do yard work for those who are basically elderly or disabled. So, it speaks volumes in my opinion, to be able to say, ‘Hey we’re Pitt State students. We give back to those who’ve given to us.”