It was difficult to tell which was shining more brightly this past Saturday on Newell Field — the sun above in a cloudless blue sky or the smiles on the faces of the student and staff organizers of the Big Event, Towson University’s largest community service program.
Just before 10 a.m., more than 1,200 enthusiastic Towson students departed from Newell Field and headed to 75 different project sites in nearby neighborhoods and the uptown retail business district. For the next three hours, they cleaned up debris, raked leaves, mulched gardens, pulled weeds and spruced up some 56 homes in Knollwood-Donnybrook, Stoneleigh, Aigburth Manor and other local communities. They also helped beautify the business district along York Road between Burke Avenue and the circle at York and Joppa roads.
“I am just so thrilled,” said Bush, a mass communication major and one of the event’s lead organizers, as she looked out on the sea of students Saturday.
“There is a core group of 25 students that has been working for a year to prepare for today. Some of us were fortunate to travel to a ‘Big Event’ conference at Texas A&M University to get ideas for how to make our event even better than in years past. This would not have been possible without all of the students who worked on this and the incredibly supportive Towson staff who helped us!”
Bush said one idea that may have contributed to the event’s success this year was the use of door hangers to seek participation from residents in nearby neighborhoods.
“We learned about the door hanger idea at the conference at Texas A&M,” Bush recalled. “We also did a lot of direct marketing, social media and outreach events to increase both student and resident participation.”
Tents on Newell Field Saturday morning were filled with food, drink, enthusiastic students, proud parents and clipboards with spreadsheets detailing the 75 separate clean-up sites. Residents in the neighborhoods clearly were impressed with how well organized and executed the event was this year. They were also visibly impressed with the kindness and enthusiasm of the TU students who participated.
“We would like to thank you for sending such a delightful group of students to our home as part of Towson University’s The Big Event,” Knollwood Road residents Ruth and Robert Cullison wrote to TU President Maravene Loeschke. “They were energetic, enthusiastic and extremely helpful. Because of all their help, our large yard looks better than it has in a long time and we truly appreciate their efforts.
“This is the first time we participated in Towson’s community service event,” the email continued. “It was exceptionally well organized and we certainly commend the university for sponsoring such a creative and thoughtful way to give back to the neighboring communities.”
It was virtually impossible to walk or drive through Towson without spotting groups of university students, clad in blue “Big Event” t-shirts and hard at work in front yards, back yards, median strips of local roadways, and even the grounds of Towson High School and the adjacent Aigburth Vale senior apartments. TU students worked side-by-side with Towson High School students to remove graffiti and trash at the high school.
The timing of the Big Event was especially critical, as more than 250,000 people are expected for the 47th Annual Towsontown Spring Festival this weekend, May 3-4. Nancy Hafford, executive director for the Towson Chamber of Commerce, was on hand to personally thank students for their service and hard work.
“I don’t know if the students realize how much of a positive impact this makes on all of Towson,” Hafford said Saturday at the Chamber of Commerce headquarters on West Chesapeake Avenue.
“We couldn’t have done this much work on our own to beautify this town. We could not be more appreciative and thankful for everything the Towson students have done.”