650 volunteers to participate in Cortland community cleanup

Students from Alpha Phi Omega participate in The Big Event in 2017.

Editor’s Note: This is a press release from SUNY Cortland.

On Sunday, April 22, SUNY Cortland’s fourth annual Big Event is expected to draw approximately 650 volunteers working at over 50 volunteer work sites throughout the Cortland community.

The student-organized community clean-up offers the campus a chance to give back to the local Cortland community. Last year, 650 campus community members participated.

“Community service has always meant a lot to me,” said Ursula Mates, this year’s Big Event director.

“I’m just really hoping for the event to go well so it can continue in the future because it is such a positive thing for the SUNY Cortland community,” said Mates, a physics major from Lake Grove, N.Y.

Since its inception in 2015, the Actively Involved in the Community (AIC) student club on campus has been responsible for organizing this event each spring. Mates, following in the footsteps of the SUNY Cortland Big Event founder, Ashlee Prewitt ’14, is inspired by similar Big Event service days at colleges across the country.

The Big Event originated in 1982 as a student-run service project developed by Texas A&M University. Although there is no nationally recognized organization for this specific event, colleges and universities across the U.S. have adopted similar projects on their campuses.

Early stages of preparation for the SUNY Cortland event usually begins in January, according to Mates. As the Big Event draws closer, more and more people sign up and more involvement and collaboration start to happen.

Four Greek organizations have committed to the event: Delta Phi Epsilon, Alpha Phi Omega, Alpha Sigma Alpha and Sigma Lambda Upsilon. Several clubs and groups on campus have also signed up to volunteer at the event, including women’s club volleyball, Taekwondo club, Jiu-jitsu club, Cortland Dance Company, club field hockey, club basketball, Ice Girls, and the SUNY Cortland Athletics Department.

“We expect to get more groups that have discussed their interest in participating and they will most likely show up the day of,” said Mates.

On April 22, everyone will head off to their assigned task sites, which will be given out at check in. Sites include the McEvoy Children’s Garden or Master Gardener Volunteers of Cortland County. Members of the community who can request a student group to help do work.

Most of the volunteer sites are gardens, in addition to a church and a temple location where managers have requested student volunteers. Community home owners also ask volunteers to help with household chores such as raking leaves or picking weeds. Almost all of the work locations are within walking distance from the campus, but some require bus transportation.

The Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House staff annually eagerly accepts students as well.

The Student Government Association (SGA) funds the necessary equipment such as rakes, gloves and shovels.

“A lot of community members, who continually sign up, really talk about how much they appreciate it, and they request specific groups to return because they were so helpful in years past,” Mates said.

Check-in will begin at 8 a.m. the day of the event in the Corey Union Function Room, followed by a kick-off ceremony at 9 a.m. President Erik J. Bitterbaum, SUNY Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin and Mates will speak. Breakfast will be provided by Auxiliary Services Corporation.

For more information, contact Mates or visit the SUNY Cortland Big Event Facebook page.