The Big Event: One big volunteerism free for all


David L. Dodds

Document Type


Publication Date



The Big Event: One big volunteerism free for all

About 1,000 University of North Dakota students broke out their work gloves, rakes and elbow grease on a brisk spring day in April to give back to their fellow community members in Greater Grand Forks.

It was all part of the eighth annual “Big Event” volunteering and community appreciation effort in which UND students fanned out into local neighborhoods to tackle more than 150 individual service projects, everything from raking leaves to cleaning out eave troughs to washing windows.

According to Kristi Okerlund, UND Big Event Adviser, students volunteers targeted nonprofit organizations, churches and select residences to provide assistance.

They helped people like 91-year-old UND alumna Jeanette Flaagan, on 10th Avenue North, whose late husband and eight children all are alumni, as well. UND student raked the lawn for an obviously appreciative Flaagan, and offered to wash her windows for her. She thanked the crew but declined the offer, saying it was too cold a day for window washing.

Flaagan also enjoyed visiting with the UND volunteer work crew.

UND held its inaugural Big Event in 2005 and has found success over the past seven years, vowing to make every year bigger and better. Okerlund said that about 500 volunteers showed up to work the first years of the Big Event at UND. Every year after for about five years it grew by about 100 students.

“Over the last couple of years it’s been pretty consistent at right around 1,000 volunteers,” she said.

On top of keeping the community clean, the students’ efforts also go a long way in sustaining positive relationships between the University and the Greater Grand Forks community.

I just want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to all of the students who took time to volunteer and also to the students on the advisory board who worked hard all year to make sure that everything went well,” Okerlund said.

The Big Event started at Texas A&M University in 1982 when a student decided that he wanted to find a way to say “Thank You!” to their community for all they did for the University. Since then, through education and outreach efforts, The Big Event has grown to be the largest single-day student-run community service project in the country and has spread to more than 70 Universities.

David Dodds

University Relations Editor

This document is currently not available here.