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Student-driven UM Big Event Supports Community Projects

By Edwin B. Smith

University of Mississippi

Students browse information about the Big Event at a sign-up table on the Ole Miss Student Union Plaza. Photo by Logan Kirkland/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Soon, more than 1,000 University of Mississippi students will go out across campus, Oxford and Lafayette County to complete community service projects as part of Big Event Saturday, set for April 1.

Volunteers for the annual day of service will focus their efforts on a number of project sites, including schools, churches, nonprofits, community centers and other sites supervised by the city and county.

“I am excited about this year’s Big Event because I know we will have a fantastic turnout,” said Lydia Robbins, Oxford native, senior biochemical engineering major and student co-coordinator of the Big Event. “I hope all of the students volunteering enjoy their time giving back and that all of the project hosts are excited about and pleased with the work the students do.

“I also hope that students and project hosts alike are able to form meaningful relationships with one another in their shared love for this community.”

Robbins and Evan Raines, of Birmingham, Alabama, the other student co-coordinator, estimate some 1,200 to 1,300 volunteers will complete service projects across nearly 30 L-O-U locations. In anticipation of a large turnout, this year’s Big Event is shifting its start location to Tad Smith Coliseum.

Some of the community partnerships include Oxford and Lafayette County schools, Oxford Film Festival, Boys and Girls Club, More Than a Meal, Oxford Community Garden and local churches. Besides the community projects, Big Event has created on-campus service projects to give back to the campus community.

“Most projects will take place within Lafayette County, as giving back to the L-O-U community is our primary focus,” said Frances Abernathy, of Oxford, chair of projects and leadership. “Projects will include volunteering for schools, residential homes, doing work for churches, along with other more specific projects throughout Oxford.”

Ole Miss students have been organizing the Big Event, the largest day of community service in the state, since 2011. Robbins has participated every year she’s been on campus except 2020, when the event was canceled because of COVID-19.

“I always find the Big Event to be one of the most meaningful organizations on campus because it gives us a chance as students to give back to a community that houses us so well during our college years,” she said. “The L-O-U community provides a loving home for our four years and asks for nothing in return.

“It is so fun to get out in the community on a sunny spring day with a rake or a shovel and do a little bit of work to show our appreciation.”

Students can sign up to volunteer on the university’s online involvement platform, The ForUM. Log into the site and search “volunteer” in the top search bar; the “Big Event 2023: Volunteer Registration Form” will appear under “forms” in the search results.

Volunteers can also access this form on Instagram @olemissbigevent.

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