By Kim Lyle
If you saw young folks donned in purple and gold last Saturday morning, chances are they had a paintbrush or hammer in hand.
Over 1,300 LSU tigers came out in the chilly, early hours of the day to donate their time and energy towards improving the surrounding Baton Rouge community. The organization that drew them out is called Geaux BIG Baton Rouge.
The number of participants has grown exponentially since former LSU student Elaine Giles founded the program just three years ago. She was inspired by a similar event held at Texas A&M appropriately called The Big Event, that attracts over 20,000 volunteers annually. Geaux BIG has ambitions to reach similar numbers in the coming years.
After a short morning pep rally in front of the Student Union, students split up into teams and fanned out across the city of Baton Rouge. They tackled work at over 70 different job sites.
Volunteers repaired fences of homes in the Broad Moor area, pressure washed sidewalks at the Alzheimer Services of Baton Rouge, and picked up trash around various BREC parks.
The executive director of Geaux BIG, Bryce Bourgeois, felt that his goals for the day were exceeded mainly due to the high caliber of all the people involved.
“My primary goal for Geaux BIG 2015 was to coordinate a day of service that was rewarding for not only the sites being served, but for the student volunteers as well,” said Bourgeois. “It was successful due to the hard work and dedication of this year’s executive committee. They did a superb job in regards to planning and executing this event, which resulted in an incredible experience for everyone involved.”
The event could also not have been a success without the impressive number of students that showed up. Each participant had slightly different reasons for attending the event, however they all shared a love for giving back to the community.
“I came out because I enjoy volunteering a lot and I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself,” said Santierra Lockhart, a sophomore at LSU.
“I love hearing the stories of people in the neighborhood,” expressed Erika Aragon, a junior at LSU. “Sometimes college can be such a tiny bubble. You go to class in the same buildings, study in the same buildings, and sleep in the same buildings. It can be difficult to make an effort to leave the campus. Geaux BIG allows us to really get a better sense of the city we’re living in and the people that are here.”
By late afternoon, the students had collectively offered over 6,500 hours of their time to helping out local homeowners and nonprofit businesses.
Since Geaux BIG is only in its third year, they are working hard to establish themselves as one of the premiere service organizations within the Baton Rouge community. Overall, they were able to overcome various challenges to host a successful event for all parties involved.
“One of our most significant challenges that we were able to overcome was related to funding,” shared Bourgeois. “We were tasked with coordinating an event that was supposed to be bigger and better than the previous year—but with a smaller budget. All in all, we worked through it, made some sacrifices, and hosted the most successful event in Geaux BIG history. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished this year.”