Approximately 1,500 students from Oklahoma State University fanned out across Stillwater on Saturday for the 19th annual Big Event community service project.
Students representing about 65 organizations participated at 180 job sites this year.
Big Event executive director Lindsey Willis said she and the rest of the executive committee started planning last summer.
They raised money and got sponsorships to buy the tools and supplies they needed.
Many of the job requests involved leaf raking, mowing, trimming, planting, cleaning or painting.
Some people just needed someone to do a little raking and change a few light bulbs for them.
A few requests came in for bigger projects like cleaning up limbs on a 10-acre farm and clearing invasive red cedars on a property east of Stillwater, but most jobs were in Stillwater.
Most requests came from elderly residents, people who physically can’t do the work, or community organizations.
In addition to helping at private homes, crews of students worked at the Multi Arts Center and Fairlawn Cemetery.
Willis said she got involved with the Big Event because she has a background in community service from being part of student council in high school.
She said she saw how much good the Big Event does for people and wanted to be a part of it.
“Seeing such a little thing that makes such a difference for them is really cool,” Willis said.
Other volunteers echoed her sentiments.
Bonita Warren submitted her first application for help this year.
As she alternately watched and supervised about a dozen students working over her flower bed and digging out an old holly stump, she expressed her thanks.
“It’s so encouraging to see young people who are so nice,” she said. “They all seem to know how to work, which is encouraging.”
Phillis Barnes has extensive plantings and a fish pond in the backyard she’s been tending since 1964. She has OSU students come help her with it twice a year.
“I try to stay as active as I can so I try to do some myself,” she said. “It’s almost more than I can handle.”
Barnes bakes homemade cookies for the students to thank them and because she figures they don’t get much home cooking while they’re away at school.
John Andrews said the work the students do makes it possible for him to continue enjoying his gardening hobby and the beautiful yard he created over the course of 30 years.
“We’ve had some health problems and it means the world to have their help,” he said.
The Big Event takes applications every year from January through March.