MIAMI, Okla. —
Leann Hartman has a 30-foot ditch filled with leaves that she has to clean out every spring. For the retired schoolteacher, this usually means paying a company to clean it for her, only to have to do it again the following year.
But thanks to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College students participating in the school’s community service day known as The Big Event, that is a project she won’t have to worry about this year. Two hours after showing up, students had cleared more than 20 bags worth of debris from the ditch around her home in Commerce.
“I couldn’t do this on my own, and I’m on a fixed income, so this is the kind of project that gets done when I can afford it,” Hartman said. “This is my first time requesting help from the students for The Big Event, and they have been very helpful today.”
More than 30 students took part Tuesday in the fifth annual Big Event. Since its inception, it has become the biggest single day of community outreach for the school. Area residents applied to the school for assistance on their properties, and they were matched with students who were willing to donate their time to volunteer.
For 10 hours, students came out between classes and practices to volunteer. Lisa Bell, campus coordinator of student activities, said the event has become a way for the students to show a side of the college with which the community may not be directly familiar.
“Since we are a two-year school, most of our students tend to travel home on the weekend, plus we have a lot of athletes that are playing on the weekend, so sometimes they don’t get to see our students,” Bell said. “We always hold our Big Event during the week so that we can get the most students out as possible to help.”
Members of the school’s football team were tasked with picking up the cleanup bags at the end of the day.
Paige Knight was one of the students volunteering at Hartman’s house.
“The way this is set up, we have a lot of opportunity to help where we can, even with classes going,” Knight said. “It is really easy to get involved and it puts us in the community, which is something that needs to happen more often.”
This year’s Big Event also coincided with Earth Day, adding what Bell said was a different perspective to the event.
“Part of today is taking care of our community and showing them that we care and we want to help them out,” Bell said. “There are other issues as far as pollution and things to address in Northeast Oklahoma, which the school is doing a great job of, but something on this level is easy to get students involved in directly. It’s really about both our event and Earth Day today.”
While The Big Event has traditionally been held during the week, Bell said the school is exploring holding another volunteer day on a weekend in the future.
“I think we will try it on the weekend to see if we can get more requests for help from the community,” she said. “We want to help the most people possible, but we also have to have the students available to help. That is probably on the table for us in the next year.”
NEO STUDENTS worked at 12 locations Tuesday.