March 30, 2017
by Sondi Pepenuk
Big Sunday, an independent nonprofit organization, is gearing up to host its biggest event of the year, A Month of Big Sundays (also known as MoBS), which hosts and/or sponsors charity projects every single day of the month of May.
One of the hardest things about volunteering is getting started. There are thousands of nonprofit organizations, schools, nursing homes, pet rescue foundations, etc. that are in desperate need of volunteers. Many of them don’t know how to reach out to find volunteers. And many volunteers don’t know how to find them.
Enter Big Sunday.
Started in 1999 by Hancock Park resident David Levinson, the charity started out with about 300 people from his synagogue, Temple Israel of Hollywood, who volunteered for a single day of service in May to tackle fix-up projects throughout the city of Los Angeles.
Now in its 19th year, Big Sunday has morphed from a single-day event to a weekend event to a monthly event to a non-political, non-denominational year-round event. If you want to volunteer, look no further than Big Sunday.
Something for everyone
“We have something for everyone,” says Levinson. “Homelessness, literacy, cancer, animals, the environment — whether you’re a dentist, a zumba instructor, a CEO, it doesn’t matter. Some people have money but not time. Some people have time but not money. There’s something for everyone and we’re all in this together. It’s bigger than the sum of our parts.”
Levinson is not surprised by the growth of the charity. He always knew there was a need to provide volunteers with a roadmap to opportunities, and he’s finding that once they find those opportunities, their involvement only deepens.
“There are all types of things people get out of it,” says Levinson. “People may hear about a nonprofit group they’ve never heard of before, they end up getting more involved and some even join the boards of these charities.”
Kara Corwin, who has volunteered for the organization for the last 12 years and is being honored at the charity’s second annual gala in April, agrees.
“Between work and kids and school, who has the time to research and find a charity?” asks Corwin. “Big Sunday does the work for you, and brings so many people together from so many different directions.”
Corwin is the volunteer community service chair at The Center for Early Education, and two of her daughters attend Marlborough School and are frequent volunteers themselves.
“The Big Sunday organization is super dependable, vetted and family-friendly. If you have five hours on a certain day, you can sign up, commit and go. It’s that easy.”
Corwin recently helped start Big Sunday’s youth board, a group of students (one per school) who represent their schools and serve as Big Sunday ambassadors to their school communities. Corwin is thrilled to see the involvement that is spreading throughout the schools.
“The kids have collected food outside of grocery stores, made sandwiches for the homeless, spent time with the elderly, created murals and garden spaces… it’s amazing what kids can do. I’ve watched them create their own opportunities. The journey and experience of it is amazing.”
Zazi Pope, a longtime Hancock Park resident who has been involved with the charity for over 15 years and who is also being honored at the Big Sunday gala in April, agrees that the family aspect is one of the organization’s strongest pulls.
“I have led many Big Sunday projects with my daughter, Lili,” says Pope. “We took a busload of seniors to the Norton Simon museum, a group of abused women and their children to LACMA, planted flowerbeds at a school in South LA, made adoption signs for an animal shelter in West LA… if you asked Lili what she remembers most about those experiences, she’d recall the great times we shared. Big Sunday makes helping others joyful, as well as rewarding.”
Levinson is thrilled to see how the charity has opened the eyes of the volunteers to communities they never considered.
“People go into parts of town they’ve never been to before, where they work side-by-side with people of a different race, religion, or ethnicity. Suddenly, that person they’re working with is not the kid from East L.A. — he’s a person and not a demographic. It ties people to their communities and makes them richer for these experiences.”
“Big Sunday has given my family opportunities to give back in creative, joyful and effective ways, and by teaching me that helping those less fortunate is not just a mandate, it’s an honor.”
For information and volunteer opportunities, go to bigsunday.org.
Copyright © 2017 Larchmont Chronicle
[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