Big Sunday Volunteers Fan Out, Tackle Needed Tasks

Daily News
May 8, 2006

Big Sunday Volunteers Fan Out, Tackle Needed Tasks

By Alex Dobuzinskis

Some 25,000 people fanned out across the Southland on Sunday to plant trees, serve lunch to Iraq war veterans, bathe dogs and perform countless other volunteer acts on Big Sunday — a day devoted to giving time and energy to the community.

This year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa put his political muscle behind the annual event, visiting Big Sunday projects all around the city.

The mayor was anything but lonely, with thousands of volunteers pitching in on 250 projects from Anaheim to Palmdale.

The mayor was greeted by a throng of screaming teens at Reseda High, where he grabbed a microphone and addressed students with his arm around a DJ in black shades.

“We’re one city today,” Villaraigosa said. “We are one city.”

In Big Sunday’s largest San Fernando Valley event, some 2,000 volunteers at Reseda High planted 120 trees, painted a mural, pulled weeds, collected trash and spruced up the landscape.

Mariya Berkovich, 18, was one of the many students who picked up a hoe, broom, paint brush or spade.

“Since I’m a senior, I’m about to leave. It’s just a wonderful experience,” she said.

In Studio City, volunteers at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church served lunch to Iraq war veterans. They also wrote letters to wounded vets and made care packages for soldiers fighting in Iraq.

Iraq war vet Juan Beltran, 33, who broke his back in a helicopter crash and uses a wheelchair, was served a lunch of chicken, potatoes and salad.

“I’ve actually had a pretty good experience after coming back from Iraq; people have treated me very nice,” Beltran said.

But he said getting lunch at the church Sunday was the first time, since coming back to the United States, that he was treated as a guest of honor at a public event.

There were several other Big Sunday events in the Valley. At ONEgeneration in Reseda, a crew of volunteers repainted the interior of the senior center.

At Boxer Rescue in Sun Valley, volunteers gave dogs a break from kennel life by taking them on walks and bathing them.

Big Sunday keeps getting bigger every year.

Not bad for what started in 1999 as Temple Israel of Hollywood’s volunteer day, the brainchild of screenwriter David Levinson, who attended the synagogue.

It wasn’t long before Big Sunday founder Levinson was approaching other synagogues and churches. Soon organizations were contacting Levinson, and now everyone from hockey players to book club members has gotten involved.

“Everyone’s welcomed,” said Levinson, 46. “The whole idea behind it is that no matter who, how rich or poor or anything else, everyone has something that they can help someone else (with).”

(Copyright © 2006 The Daily News of Los Angeles)

Back to In The News Index

[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