Big Sunday Event Crosses All Lines Of Race, Color, Creed

Daily News
May 19, 2010

Big Sunday Event Crosses All Lines Of Race, Color, Creed

By Bob Strauss, Staff Writer

Hannah Almstead heads Quilters for Others, one of many groups volunteering for the upcoming Big Sunday community service extravaganza. She shows off some of the quilts at the Quilt Emporium in Woodland Hills. (Dean Musgrove/Staff Photographer)

With more than 500 projects – from the Inland Empire to Santa Barbara County – planned for May 1 and 2, Big Sunday Weekend offers a community service opportunity for all interests and abilities.

All you need, organizers say, is the desire to interact and assist.

“The whole idea behind Big Sunday is that everyone has some way that they can help someone else,” said Hollywood scriptwriter David Levinson, the organization’s founder and executive director.

In its 12th year, Big Sunday offers a plethora of projects throughout the San Fernando Valley and neighboring communities.

There will be a rock & roll barbecue party thrown for 250 families at L.A. Family Housing’s North Hollywood Shelter. While Children of the Night’s Reseda facility gets new chairs, the girls from the program will enjoy a roller derby demonstration courtesy of L.A.’s Derby Dolls team.

And there’s lots, lots more.

“Big Sunday involves so many people,” said Hannah Almstead, whose Quilters for Others group will host a weekend bee to benefit wounded veterans at Patchwork Penguin in Tujunga. “It connects people and they actually get things done, they don’t just talk about it.

“The mystique of Big Sunday is that it crosses – and erases – all lines of race, color or creed,” Almstead added. “Everybody works together toward a common goal.”

Though originated as a synagogue mitzvah, Big Sunday has grown to include all faiths, as well as secular groups and individuals. People and organizations who are helped by Big Sunday are encouraged to work on their own and other volunteer projects, and while

assignments are tailored toward a person’s preferences and capabilities, an effort is made to treat the jobless as well as CEOs equally.

And everyone in between.

“We want to provide more opportunities for our employees to express their philanthropic and service interests in the community, and that’s what Big Sunday is all about,” said Joan McCarthy, who heads L.A. Community Outreach for the Walt Disney Co. The Burbank-based entertainment giant is this year’s Big Sunday title sponsor, which represents a $100,000 donation.

McCarthy herself hopes to work on a Green Sunday project May 2, one of Big Sunday’s numerous environmentally themed events from the coast to the desert.

Back in the city, well-off schools are encouraged to team up with less-advantaged institutions.

Ruth Kremen is co-captain of a group of Oakwood School parents and students who will put in a day of service at Sunny Brae Elementary in Winnetka.

“It’s exciting because you get new people involved and everybody benefits,” said the lawyer, an Encino resident. “And it’s a fun experience for everyone.”

“We like how Big Sunday has so many connections to so many charitable organizations, they have the means to get the resources to the proper areas,” added Paul Tait, assistant director of operations at North Hollywood’s exclusive Campbell Hall, whose students will be performing a variety of tasks over the weekend. “The community helps in any way they can, then Big Sunday helps the rest of the way.”

Levinson likes to point out that while community service is the focus of the weekend, community building is Big Sunday’s underlying goal.

“When you’re sweating next to somebody painting a fence and you’re talking to them, then you’re more conscious of what we have in common – kids, mortgages, fear of earthquakes,” he said.

“You see people as just people, not the `Hispanic guy’ or the `Jewish woman’ or the `handicapped person,”‘ he said. “It’s kind of simplistic to say, but I really think that. It’s like taking a couple of days out of the year to reset the way we look at things.”

(Copyright 2010 The Daily News of Los Angeles)

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[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