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R-MC Gives Back to Community with The Big Event (VIDEO)

Oct 30, 2017


The Big EventRandolph-Macon College students expressed their gratitude and support for the Ashland community by participating in The Big Event, which took place November 5, 2017. Dressed in special T-shirts, volunteers performed a variety of service projects for Ashland residents.

Students, faculty and staff worked together both on and off campus, weeding and planting at the Brian Wesley Moores Native Plant Garden; raking leaves; painting; and landscaping. A record-breaking 386 students volunteered during R-MC's third-annual Big Event.

About The Big Event
The Big Event was founded in 1982 at Texas A&M University by Joe Nussbaum, vice president of the Student Government Association. Today, this one-day community service project takes place on more than 75 campuses throughout the world.

Giving Back
Throughout the years, the Town of Ashland has shown tremendous support to the students of Randolph-Macon. R-MC's Students Engaged in Responsible Volunteer Experiences (SERVE) program strives to give back to the community through a variety of ways, including The Big Event.

"The Big Event is my favorite day of the year," says Jayme Watkins, director of Student Life. "Our students work together to give back to the residents of Ashland and to the R-MC community. Service is an important part of my life, and it is exciting to see that it matters to our students as well."

Community Connections
Alina Pacione '18, a behavioral neuroscience major and biology and psychology minor, has served for the past two years as executive director of The Big Event. She worked with a committee of students, faculty and staff to plan and organize this special day of service.

"We visited local businesses to offer them sponsorship abilities for The Big Event, and we conducted job-site checks to ensure that the venue was safe for our volunteers," she explains. "I enjoy this type of connection with Ashland residents—our neighbors. The Big Event allows us to help those who cannot complete household tasks, and seeing how grateful our Ashland neighbors are makes our work worthwhile."

A psychology and economics major, Jacob Haines '19 is also a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. He and his fraternity brothers worked at Ashland residents' homes, trimming rose bushes, digging out dead plants, weeding, and pruning trees.

"The homeowners were quite happy with the results—one couple even asked to take a picture with us," says Haines. "We finished three full yards of work in three hours. It would have taken the homeowners all day to accomplish what we did in a short amount of time. That is what I find so rewarding."

Biology Professor Nicholas Ruppel, Religious Studies Professor Tim Brown, along with student volunteers from Theta Chi and the Student Virginia Education Association, worked together in the R-MC Brian Wesley Moores Native Plant Garden. The group expanded existing garden beds, and added mulch and new plants. The plants were donated by the Virginia Native Plant Society – Pocahontas Chapter in conjunction with a grant that Ruppel received in spring 2017.

The new plants will expand and diversify the garden's bloom time throughout the year and draw in additional pollinators, which is important for Ruppel's research. Additionally, they will make the garden an even nicer place for R-MC and community members to visit.

"We get student volunteers every year for the Big Event, and their help is essential for tackling the large projects that Tim and I can't do alone," says Ruppel. "In addition, I've always viewed The Big Event as that last essential step before the garden takes a much-needed rest over the winter!"

Leadership and Service at R-MC
In 2016-17, R-MC students collectively amassed more than 17,000 volunteer hours and donated $47,075 to various causes. Students in Fraternity and Sorority Life contributed more than 10,049 hours of collective service to the community and donated nearly $27,683 to various organizations and philanthropies. In addition, $14,000 was raised and donated to the American Cancer Society from the annual Relay for Life.
Leadership development is one of the primary focuses of R-MC's Office of Student Life.

With programs and initiatives such as the Student Leadership Conference, the Leadership Fellows program, and Leadership Week, R-MC prepares students to be the leaders of tomorrow.

The Leadership Fellows program instructs participants on the theories of leadership, including the Social Change Model, Servant Leadership, and Transformative Leadership. The program is designed to build upon itself year after year, with students helping to direct their own personal experiences and educate their peers.

SERVE (Students Engaged in Responsible Volunteer Experiences)
The SERVE program provides students with dynamic opportunities for service and service- learning, and helps them explore the root causes and contexts of social needs through connections with the greater community.

SERVE students engage in a variety of service activities throughout the year, including Macon a Difference Day, the culmination of a week-long community-service initiative that brings together students, faculty and staff to help beautify the R-MC and Ashland communities.

Service Fellows
The Service Fellows program is designed to operate much like a not-for-profit service organization. Fellows progress through four years of guided service, exploration and reflection in this co-curricular program. Fellows work together and with other community organizations to provide service to others.