No time to delay on Big Sunday

Her hands and clothes speckled with paint, Makeba Stallings of Los Angeles coaches her son Tyler on how to paint properly. Their work-in-progress, an oversized War and Peace theatrical prop, is nearly complete but there is much more work ahead. The mother and son team are surrounded by half finished set items, canvas tarps, and construction supplies. "Everybody is grateful to be contributing and giving back," says Stallings, "It feels good to know that you are helping."

The Stallings are among more than 50,000 other volunteers who took part in this year's Big Sunday event on May 14 and 15. Volunteers from San Francisco to San Diego participated in what has come to be, according to Founder and Director David Levinson, one of America's largest organized community service events. Big Sunday provided 500 projects at different locations, for which volunteers registered online.

Michelle Christie-Adams is the founder of No Limits, an organization which caters to speech and language needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing children. "Big Sunday has been around forever in our lives and we are so grateful [… ] This year is so special because we are looking at all of our sets and having them refurbished," said Christie-Adams.

The Stallings were two of nearly 30 who showed up to help with the No Limits project in Culver City. On the other side of town, at the Ocean Park Community Center, 10-year volunteer and team leader Woolf Kanter, organized and headed a barbeque for the homeless.

Kanter began volunteering 10 years ago at Temple Israel's Mitzvah Day. "They started off small and it grew and grew and grew over the years and now they have changed the name to Big Sunday," he said. "It's done Saturday and Sunday and they do other things throughout the year."

Kanter referred to Monthly on Melrose "a series of workshops, collections, performances, and parties." Here, hundreds of volunteers converge to provide community assistance to low-income children, kids with disabilities, veterans, and women and children from various shelters.

"Each year it gets bigger and bigger," said Kanter. "There are more and more organizations that need a little assistance and there's always another project to be done."

The work was tedious as many projects included painting, planting, building, or restoring; still, morale remained high on Big Sunday. "It really touches your heart!" shouted Nadeen Sparks, a youth volunteer.

Her new friend, Joanna Veregas, agreed. "You see all of the homeless people and give them the food," she said. "They look into your eyes and say ‘thank you.' I really feel like they appreciate it."

Young people showed up in numbers for the various volunteer events. Noah Treiman, 13, helped a large group from Temple Isaiah with their many projects. "Today, we're making a lemonade stand, to help a good cause," he said. "We have to do it for school, but even if I didn't have to, it's really important."

Big Sunday, as an organization, facilitated community service, but more specifically community building, an aspect of the project that Naquib Shifa and his volunteer group at New Horizon School embraced with artistic arms. "The idea is to deliver our items to the patients of local hospitals to build a bridge between the schools and the hospitals and to engender a community spirit here in Santa Monica," said Shifa. Both students of New Horizon School and other local community members gathered to create decorative pots for hospitalized patients.

Big Sunday brings together citizens of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds with the common goal of community building. With over 50,000 volunteers working on 500 projects, Big Sunday has a substantial impact on both those who volunteer, and those who benefit.