Big Sunday does hundreds of projects every year for a wide variety of social service and nonprofit organizations from San Diego to San Francisco. Our volunteers paint, build, repair, plant, play, cook, sew, organize, entertain, sell lemonade, decorate cookies, make greeting cards and deliver food. At Big Sunday though, we pride ourselves on not just doing community service, but building community through community service! Below you’ll find a taste of the types and variety of projects we have done for more than a decade. If you’re interested in volunteering during A Month of Big Sunday in May, you can see a complete list of projects starting in April when we’ll post them on the website.
Helping the Homeless
Big Sunday undertakes many projects that help the homeless, including throwing parties at shelters, cooking meals and providing clothes, toiletries and other supplies.
For example, at the Hawkes Transitional Center downtown, we’ve helped scores of homeless women feel they are “Queens for a Day.” We bring in professional hair stylists and make-up artists to make these women look good and feel great as they make their transition back to work. Additional volunteers help each client choose an outfit from a wardrobe of donated clothes and accessories, serve food and play music. This sort of project is intended for adult volunteers only.
Meanwhile, at the Weingart Center — an amazing single-resident-occupancy hotel that provides housing, education, and medical services to hundreds of formerly homeless people on Skid Row — our volunteers team up to serve these folks a great brunch, with great food, entertainment, lots of fun, and lots of friendship. The themes of the party are hope and encouragement. And, if that weren’t enough, each guest is given a special gift as a memento of the day. All ages are welcome to participate.
If you like working with seniors, we have tons of projects for you — from visiting nursing homes to refurbishing senior centers to hosting a “senior prom.”
Or you might, for example, host a lunch with some seniors and their caregivers at the Assistance League of Southern California in Hollywood. One year, the league asked us to make and deliver grooming kits for shut-ins and to throw a luncheon party for caregivers and their loved ones. It sounded great, so we said, “Yes. And yes.” Our volunteers helped cook and serve lunch, pack and deliver the kits, and, of course, schmoozed with the seniors! All the while, a Mariachi band made music.
Caring for Kids
We know many of you love helping kids, so we have lots of projects for you too. We help runaway teens, teenage mothers, physically and emotionally abused children, disadvantaged school-age kids, homeless children and many more.
For instance, at the Bert Corona Charter School in Pacoima — named for a Latino activist who dedicated his life to achieving social and economic justice for underserved immigrant communities — our volunteers worked with the nice folks from The Walt Disney Company and TreePeople to plant sod and create a field for the kids to play on. And, oh yeah, we planted trees. Lots and lots of trees.
Giving Away the ‘Goodies’
Each year, we give truckloads of things away to needy people from all walks of life. We get requests for everything from toiletries to books to household cleaners to toys to dishes to diapers and goody baskets.
We collect, assemble and give away thousands of baskets, bags and backpacks full of necessities, goodies and other requested items to homeless people, disadvantaged school kids, battered women, troubled teens, low-income families, patients in hospices and other needy people all over town. The groups we help include First UMC of Santa Monica’s Upward Bound House, St. Mary’s Center, Inside-Out Writers Inc., Florence Crittenton Center, Harvest Home, Gramercy House, Friends and Helpers, Daybreak, Turning Point, P.A.T.H., Casa de Rosas, the St. Francis Center, OPCC and many others.
To make all this happen, our volunteers — some as young as age five — usually gather at a central location and, assembly-line-style, help put these baskets together, make ‘em look great, and get ‘em where they need to go.
Big Sunday has always done a lot to preserve the environment all over L.A. We’ve planted gardens, cleaned beaches and rivers, planted trees, recycled and e-cycled.
A good example of how we get back — and give back — to nature can be found in our work at the Whittier Narrows Nature Center in El Monte. This beautiful (and enormous) park needed weeding, clearing, cleanup and invasive plant removal. Our volunteers always give it their all. So, though, do the nice folks from the San Dimas Canyon Nature Center, who’ve come and entertained our volunteers (especially the young ones) with a falcon, a hawk and a Kingsnake.
Lending a Paw
Here at Big Sunday, we love animals. And so do a lot of our volunteers who help out at animal shelters, take disadvantaged kids and adults on horseback rides, bring animal and science shows to schools and shelters, and much more.
At the Daphneyland Basset Rescue Ranch in Acton, for example, our volunteers helped spiff up 91 basset hounds who’d been rescued and were waiting to be adopted. While they were at it, they spiffed up the ranch, too. We even tossed in a little incentive: a free Big Sunday sweatshirt (retail value: $45) to anyone who adopted one of the big boys.
Assisting Those with AIDS
At Big Sunday, we help many nonprofit groups that help people living with HIV/AIDS. Among them: Project New Hope, which provides opportunities for low-income and homeless people struggling with AIDS; APLA, which focuses on prevention advocacy and service; and The Serra Project, which runs three residential group homes for AIDS/HIV patients and has been part of Big Sunday since our very first year.
What exactly do we do here? A bit of everything. At The Serra Project’s Casa Long Beach facility, for instance, our volunteers (again, some as young as five) have planted, painted, repaired, cleaned and cooked. We’ve also brought gifts on residents’ wish lists. And sometimes out volunteers just hang out with the residents and provide some much-needed company.
Digging Up the Dirt
Calling all green thumbs. If you love to garden, plant, weed and mulch, there’s lots to do on Big Sunday to keep the dirt under your fingernails. We garden at schools, group homes, shelters — just about anywhere we can find a patch of dirt that needs some greening.
For example, the Cesar Chavez House (part of L.A. Family Housing) in Boyle Heights is a nice shelter serving homeless families. They asked us to prepare and install a vegetable and flower garden for use by shelter residents and the surrounding neighborhood. So we did. But that’s not all. While the garden was being created, other volunteers threw our annual Big Sunday party for the kids at the shelter and those in the surrounding neighborhood.
Partying All Night Long (Well, At Least All Day)
Are you a host or hostess extraordinaire? A prince or princess of parties? We host soirees for underprivileged groups of all kinds and could use your help.
We’ve hosted tea parties and brunches for women in homeless shelters; breakfast and bingo for veterans, carnivals at low-income schools and community centers and dance parties for foster kids! Some parties, like the one we’ve hosted at Junior Blind of America in Culver City (which includes a visit from The Amazing Captain Carl and his Mobile Tide Pools) is so popular that they ask us to do the same party every year!
These parties are always a lot of fun to do and a Big Sunday Weekend highlight.
Help Out with our Adventures
If serving food, cleaning up, digging in the dirt, is not your thing, well, you can still help out by being friendly. Yep, that’s all that’s required! We host dozens of outings and adventures – taking people from homeless shelters, at-risk youth, veterans and others to museums, the theater, the aquarium, and so much more. We’ve taken folks horseback riding, for a tour on the San Francisco Bay and on a double-decker bus tour of Los Angeles with a surprise – and let’s just say – very entertaining – tour guide! The thing is, many people never have a chance to venture out from the shelter or neighborhood where they live, and here at Big Sunday we think providing a day of fun and adventure is just as important as gardening or fixing up a shelter!
Providing Hope at the Hub
If you’re not exactly sure what you want to do on Big Sunday Weekend, don’t worry. You can join us at one of our many hub locations — they’re usually located at churches, synagogues, mosques or community centers throughout the Greater Los Angeles area. They’ll put you to work helping with one or more of the many projects they tackle throughout the day at their site. Many sort clothes and books, bake cookies, knit, assemble gift baskets and write cards for soldiers and much more.
Here’s just one example from one hub site: A couple of years ago, our dear friends at St. Michael and All Angels’ Church in Sherman Oaks had a day helping the troops and it was such a success (and so needed and appreciated by so many) that they decided to do it again. So the next year, they hosted a bake sale, “winner cake all” and craft sale to benefit Wounded Warriors, the Evan Ashcraft Memorial Foundation, as well as Fisher House in San Diego, which provides free or low-cost housing to veterans and military families whose loved ones are being treated at military medical centers and hospitals. This Hub is so popular that they have continued to host activities that benefit veterans for years and years!