April 30, 2009
Volunteers plan big things for Big Sunday
By Susan Abram
NORTH HILLS – Come this weekend, a little San Fernando Valley school will get a big hand.
Petunias will get planted, murals will be finished and the playground will get scrubbed until every inch sparkles.
At Plummer Elementary School, Big Sunday is, well, a big deal.
“Big Sunday is a big help,” said Sylvia Elias, a counselor at the school who connected Plummer Elementary to Big Sunday.
“Children come with their parents, their grandparents. The community gets involved,” she said. “The sense of ownership that comes afterward is wonderful. On Monday, after the event, the kids still wear their Big Sunday T-shirts.”
Each year, Plummer Elementary along with hundreds of other schools, nonprofit organizations, and social service groups from San Diego to Santa Barbara counties look forward to Big Sunday, a two-day volunteering event that has grown so much it actually begins on Saturday.
The event is now known as the largest region-wide volunteer weekend in the United States, created to celebrate the need to give within every individual, regardless of religion, politics, race, ethnicity or income.
Put them all in a blender, and the result has become 50,000 volunteers that fan out over Southern California to participate in 500 projects at more than 300 sites, in everything from helping the environment, the homeless, the elderly and children.
Founded 11 years ago as a Mitzvah Day at Temple Israel of Hollywood, Big Sunday has morphed into a giant effort that includes 50,000 volunteers.
Volunteers can plant trees, read to the elderly or visit veterans. Residents can buy lemonade at one of 78 stands across Southern California to help raise money for various children’s charities, or get their nails polished at booths to help raise awareness and funds for the Lung Cancer Foundation of America.
Big Sunday founder David Levinson said he remains in awe of people’s generosity in giving their time. And yet he understands the need, not only among those who receive, but among those who want to give.
“Everybody has their own way they can give,” Levinson said. “Some people volunteer, some people donate. Some can get their hands dirty, and others visit nursing homes. It’s all good.”
This year, the need for basics – canned foods, toiletries and diapers – has increased because of the economy. A diaper drive also is planned as one of the events during Big Sunday.
“People want to volunteer so much, and want to give back, and at the same time the nonprofits need more than ever,” Levinson said. “Before, schools would ask for donations of books, but now it’s food and underwear and other necessities.”
And while “Big Sunday” is itself a nonprofit organization, it too needs funds to continue to provide supplies for all the events, such as shovels and food.
“It’s been a challenge this year,” Levinson said. “But, knock on wood, we’re doing well.”
(Copyright 2009 The Daily News of Los Angeles)
[Thanksgiving Stuffing Event] “Our Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without you guys. It warms my heart and replenishes my faith to witness such kindness in action.”
- -A.Z., Los Angeles