March 21, 2017

‘The Big Event: A Saluki Day of Service’ set for April 1

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Nearly 1,000 Salukis will say “thanks” to the community for its ongoing support by participating in the biggest one-day service project in the history of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

SIU’s inaugural  “The Big Event: A Saluki Day of Service” will take place at numerous on- and off-campus locations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 1. Hundreds of students, along with faculty and staff members, are volunteering their time and energy to help non-profit agencies and organizations and the people they serve throughout the greater Carbondale area.

Updates of the day’s activities will be posted, using #TheBigEvent, on Twitter @SIUC, as well as on Instagram and Snapchat @ThisIsSIU.

The Big Event is modeled after an event founded at Texas A & M University in 1982 that draws more than 10,000 student participants annually. The Big Event is now found on more than 100 campuses across the United States and beyond to universities in Spain, Australia, Germany, Pakistan and Italy.

Laurie Bell, interim dean of SIU’s University College, suggested that SIU get involved in the “great community engagement” project after participating in the inaugural event while working at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne in 2012. She described it as having “the opportunity to see the impact of hundreds of students, staff and faculty coming together to say ‘thank you’ and show gratitude to the Fort Wayne community for their support of the university on one BIG day.”

“SIU Carbondale has a long history of volunteerism highlighted by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognizing SIU with their highly coveted Community Engagement Classification in 2015. The Big Event seemed like a natural addition to the great community engagement that was already happening at SIU,” Bell added.

Community service is woven into the fabric of SIU, as more than 3,000 students contribute more than 30,000 hours of community service on average each year. The Big Event is SIU’s first massive one-day student-run service event and preparations have been underway for two years, Bell said.

“With nearly 1,000 participants signed up to show our appreciation to the community on April 1, this should be a very special and big day,” she said.

Cordy Love, director of New Student Programs, and Nick Weshinskey, University College coordinator, are co-chairs of SIU’s Big Event. Love said they worked with Mythili Rundblad, Center for Service-Learning and Volunteerism coordinator, to select sites for the service projects. Some Big Event volunteerism involves ongoing service work activities and some focuses on special events. Love noted that the Jackson County Healthy Communities Coalition is going to be able to sponsor its Stay Safe Family Fun Fest thanks to the Saluki volunteers.

Other organizations and agencies that will benefit from the Saluki Day of Service include the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale, Carbondale Main Street, Green Earth Inc., For Kids’ Sake, the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, Keep Carbondale Beautiful, the Autism Society of Illinois, the Humane Society, Touch of Nature Environmental Center and local food pantries.

At locales on campus and in the community, the volunteers will be planting flowers and trees, making mats for homeless people, helping with a benefit 5K, caring for animals and their shelter, creating birdhouses and token of kindness to present to people who do nice things, making appreciation packs for firefighters and thank-you cards for veterans, packing and sorting food items for food pantries, assisting with a blood drive, cleaning sites, facilities and trails, and performing numerous other helpful activities.

While the goal of The Big Event is “to say ‘thank you’ to Carbondale and to express our gratitude for its unwavering support,” there’s a bonus for volunteers as well, Weshinskey said.

“Students participating in The Big Event will benefit by forming a greater sense of community with fellow volunteers and with members of the Carbondale community,” Weshinskey said. “Volunteerism is a part of our Saluki identity.”

Sponsors for The Big Event: A Saluki Day of Service include the Office of the Chancellor, University College, the Achieve Program, the Student Center, New Student Programs, Student Affairs, Recreational Sports and Services, University Housing, the Pfeffer Foundation Fund, the Wesley Foundation and Durham School Services. Kroger of Carbondale is providing snacks for volunteers as well.