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Published: Thursday, 3/18/2010

'Big Event' projected as big deal for UT students

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

University of Toledo students want to make a BIG impact in their host city.

Not with late-night noise, boisterous parties, or hedonistic spending, however. Instead, they want to fan out across the city and perform good deeds for a day. That day is Saturday.

Organizers expect between 200 and 500 students will take part in what they're calling the "Big Event." Participants will help out at local charities and perform chores such as window washing, yard work, and painting at the request of residents. Faculty and administrators at the University of Toledo also will be involved.

"The goal of the project is to say 'Thank you. Thank you for accepting us rowdy college kids in your town,'•" said Matt Rubin, a political science student from Detroit and the event's director. "We're not always projected in the greatest light. I think this is something the community can gain an appreciation of: that we're here to be active in the community and contribute."

Mr. Rubin, 20, said the idea for the Big Event came from a similar project organized every year at Texas A&M University. That event, which began in 1982, is now heralded as the largest one-day, student-run service project in the nation.

Getting UT students to sign up has not been difficult because many service-oriented groups are on campus, including fraternities and sororities, Mr. Rubin said. The Big Event team is also working with the university's athletic department and the United Way of Greater Toledo.

"We think that's absolutely great for students to take the initiative to plan and execute projects," said Paige Salamin, the youth involvement coordinator at the United Way Volunteer Center. "We're very thrilled to be involved."

Through the United Way, students will be sorting and distrib-uting clothes at the Cherry Street Mission and helping organize spring planting at the Toledo Botanical Garden. Participants will tackle neighborhood cleanups, with particular focus on the nearby Secor Gardens and Bancroft Hills areas.

Jessica Kelly, a junior who is recruiting students for the event, said she is hopeful there will be a large turnout this year. She said students attempted to run the event last year, but lack of publicity led to just a few people turning out.

Still, Ms. Kelly said she learned a lot from participating in the smaller event last year, including how to clean gutters. But she said the most rewarding part was meeting people from the community whom she wouldn't normally get to talk to and hearing their stories.

Ms. Kelly said the positive experience motivated her to get involved in organizing the this year's event with the hope of making it bigger.

"This is an opportunity for students to get to know their neighbors," Ms. Kelly said. "It's called the 'Big Event' for a reason. We need to get a lot of people to really show the community that we're serious about our endeavors and let them know that we're here."

Community members interested in requesting students to help them with a chore can do so by visiting UTBigEvent.com and filling out the information under the "work request" section.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at:

cbarrett@theblade.com

or 419-724-6272.



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