The Big Event makes a big return

By Kyle Hobstetter on April 22, 2021

Hundreds of students provided in-person, virtual help on TU’s largest day of community service

Students cleaning up trash in a local neighborhood
Students worked together, while masked and socially distant, on art projects that would go to Baltimore area youth in a project with local non-profit Art With A Heart. (Submitted Photo) 

The 2021 Big Event showed that Towson University is truly an anchor institution in Baltimore County community.

The university’s largest day of service returned April 18 for an 11th edition, with members of the TU community volunteering in surrounding neighborhoods and organizations. Last year's efforts were canceled due to the pandemic.

With many students learning remotely, the Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility provided a variety of ways to fit students’ comfort levels. The Big Event adopted a serve-where-you-are model with opportunities on campus, in hometowns and virtual.

“It was our goal to host an event this year,” says Stephanie Austin, interim director of the Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility. “We worked with a lot of partners on campus and some neighborhood associations nearby. We also worked with nonprofits in Baltimore, but we did that virtually.”

One of the physically distant projects helped Meals on Wheels, with students making cards for those who receive the nonprofit’s services. Students also worked virtually or spread out in an on-campus lecture hall with Art with a Heart, completing art projects for Baltimore youth. They also worked with Civic Works, updating recipe books that go to elderly members of the community.

Banke Adeniji, coordinator of community service, said TU wanted to provide unique service experiences as well as a safe way to contribute to campus.

“I think students just enjoyed coming back, because for a lot of them, this was the first time many of them stepped foot back on campus in over a year,” Adeniji says. “I think being in that space with other students who wanted to serve was exciting. I think they learned about what resources are available and other ways they can help the community, and I think it encouraged them to be a bit more creative.”

Students in a lecture hall
Students were able to work together while masked and socially distant, to work on art projects that would go to Baltimore area youth as part of a project with local non-profit Art With A Heart. (Submitted Photo)

More than 200 students completed service projects during the day. Along with the virtual projects, students cleaned up and collected trash on campus and in surrounding neighborhoods. They also worked in local urban gardens.

“I think it is really important that we're able to show that we are a part of this community, and we love being a part of this community,” Austin says. “We want to continue to build community with the folks around us. This is our community, and we need to work together.”

The Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility wants students to know that there's much more beyond The Big Event.

“A lot of partners come to our office, and they have opportunities, including many nonprofits that have virtual opportunities for students, and [the nonprofits] want them to be part of that," Adeniji says. “Connect with our office, because there's different ways that students find things that are best suited for them.”

To look for service projects or learn how to help the community, the Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility or follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.