More than 250 Texas A&M University-Texarkana students, faculty, staff and alumni joined together Saturday morning for The Big Event, tackling community service projects at more than a dozen locations on both sides of the state line.
The Big Event: Eagle Pride City Wide is a student-led day of volunteering aimed at giving back to the Texarkana communities. Participants helped area nonprofit organizations, parks, neighborhoods and animal shelters with tasks such as yard work, painting fences, sorting donations, cleaning and planting shrubs, flowers and vegetables. One group of students even removed an old fence at the Texarkana Regional Airport.
The Big Event was sponsored by the A&M-Texarkana Campus Activities Board, Student Government Association, Office of Student Life and Alumni Association.
Local businesses, including Goodman Realty, Kelli Ashbrook State Farm, Healthcare Express, Sonic of Texarkana, Wendy’s of Texarkana, McDonald’s of Texarkana, Starbucks on Richmond Road, Super 1 Foods and Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, sponsored tools, supplies, food and T-shirts for participants.
Both Mayor Bob Bruggeman of Texarkana, Texas, and Mayor Ruth Penney Bell of Texarkana, Arkansas, attended a kick-off pep rally Saturday morning, proclaiming April 8, 2017, as A&M-Texarkana The Big Event Day on both sides of the state line.
Work sites included the Arkansas/Texas state line area, Beech Street, Believe in Beverly Community Garden, Bobby Ferguson Park, Harvest Regional Food Bank, Kidtopia Park, Randy Sams’ Outreach Shelter, Inc., Runnin’ WJ Ranch, Sandflat-Glendale neighborhood, Animal Care and Adoption Center, Texarkana Animal League and Texarkana Regional Airport.
“At every single project site I visited, I was blown away by the passion and dedication of our Eagle family,” said event organizer Michael Stephenson, coordinator of Student Life at A&M-Texarkana. “While I may have been responsible for the event, every single participant was responsible for making it reflect the love we have for our university and our cities. I know our community is thankful and so am I to be associated with such amazing people.”
At Harvest Regional Food Bank, The Big Event volunteers worked to label approximately 700 cans of food and to set up a mobile pantry with food and boxes for about 240 families.
“The Big Event volunteers were awesome this year. They came in ready to work. We were impressed with the amount of committed volunteers,” said Ashley Lockett, development director and volunteer coordinator at the food bank. “Harvest Regional Food Bank can only achieve its goals with the assistance of generous volunteers and donations from our community. Without these volunteers and donations, serving our community would not be possible. Donations and fundraising help sustain our organization and benefit the communities we serve. Last year, we were able to provide over 3.3 million pounds of food, about 3 million meals, to over 60,000 individuals in our region because of supporters like A&M-Texarkana. Thank you for making an impact in our community!”
Marina Garza, a senior English major from Garland, Texas, spent the day doing yard work and helping with the animals at the Texarkana Animal League.
“As a student who has been at the university for four years now, I have seen a lot of student participation in the previous community service events, back when it was called iServe,” Garza said. “What set The Big Event apart from iServe was the impact of the community as a whole. It was amazing to see the turnout of not just the A&M-Texarkana community, but the people of Texarkana altogether in making a difference for this city.”
Dustin Nix, administrative associate for TRiO Student Support Services, worked alongside Garza and Kacie Gray, Amber Spence, Alex Claiborne, Sheri Brady, Marcie Whisenhunt and her daughters at the Texarkana Animal League.
“I happily volunteered for the Big Event: Eagle Pride City Wide on Saturday, and it was truly an honor,” said Nix. “The event was well organized, extremely impactful, and made me proud to be an Eagle. I had the blessing to work with some awesome student leaders, staff and family at the Texarkana Animal League. While at the shelter we cleaned windows, took care of the yard, organized and cleaned the dog and cat rooms, and had such a fun time playing with the animals.”
Vicki Stringer, assistant to the dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, painted fences at the Runnin’ WJ Ranch in Nash.
“I had a great time volunteering at the ranch,” Stringer said. “The best part was getting to spend time with co-workers and students – some I knew and some I didn’t know. I really enjoyed the experience.”
Zak McCarthy, a junior business administration major and Eagles soccer player from Hemel Hempstead in the U.K., enjoyed the opportunity to volunteer in Texarkana.
“It was amazing to have the chance to give back to a community which I now call home. I loved every minute of it,” McCarthy said.
Jennifer Felps, director of International Studies, spent the day volunteering at the Believe in Beverly Community Garden.
“Eagle Pride City Wide made a definite impact in our community,” said Felps. “We had representatives from all departments, colleges and clubs come out in full force to help with various community improvement projects across Texarkana USA. I had the pleasure of working outside in the Beverly Community Garden with a great group of Eagles. The Big Event really encompassed our university’s mission of community leadership.”
Regents Professor of History Dr. Tom Wagy, volunteered with Felps at the Believe in Beverly Community Garden.
“The Eagles in Jennifer Felps’ convocation dug weeds, hauled compost and lifted water tanks – they were work warriors,” Dr. Wagy said.
“The Big Event gave our Eagle Family an opportunity to express our appreciation to the Texarkana community that has been so supportive of our university,” said Dr. Emily Cutrer, president of A&M-Texarkana. “It also provided a venue for us to put one of our guiding principles – community leadership – into action and to work alongside our colleagues outside of the workplace – strengthening our team spirit while giving back. Our first Big Event was definitely a success and we look forward to building upon this foundation as we continue this new A&M-Texarkana tradition in the years to come.”
Dr. Del Doughty, dean of the College of Education and Liberal Arts, volunteered in the Sandflat community.
“Not to get too philosophical about it, but lately I’ve been musing on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which basically says that things are always falling apart, decaying and breaking down. It’s the natural way of things. When you apply that kind of thinking to a concept like community, you begin to understand how vital it is for people to always be coming together and working with the intention doing something good,” Dr. Doughty said. “I spent most of the morning pruning shrubs and weed-whacking, and in-between moments I met some new people and bonded with some already familiar ones. I came away from the morning in high spirits, feeling blessed to be part of the effort.”