Photo: VOA Photo – M. O’Sullivan- Story by Mike O’Sullivan (VOA News) – “It’s Big Sunday and we’re out having a great time, helping out”

Each year in late April or early May, more than 50,000 volunteers in Southern California help out at hundreds of non-profit organizations, from schools to community centers, at an annual event called “Big Sunday.”  They paint, clean and garden to help local charities.

Volunteers, young and old, cultivate gardens in schoolyards and paint murals in a south Los Angeles youth center, where Kenneth Jones is director. “Today we are having a neighborhood community make-over.  And we have all the community people who have made these collages and stuff for us to hang up in the building,” he said.

More than 500 volunteer projects take place on “Big Sunday.”  It started in 1999 with a single Sunday, and then expanded to a weekend, says founder David Levinson. “We have things for whatever people’s passion is, literacy, the environment, AIDS,  seniors, animals, veterans, women’s issues.  The idea is that everybody will find a place to fit in,” he said.

At a school in Los Angeles, neighborhood resident Howie Nicholl is hoeing and raking. “We’re helping to plant and build this fantastic garden at the 24th Street School, and it’s Big Sunday and we’re out having a great time, helping out,” he said.

Children plant herbs and vegetables that will later be used in the cooking class of school chef Gino Campagna. “The kids are just amazed because they grow the vegetables, they grow the herbs, they got (get) to cook it and they got (get) to eat it.  Our class, in fact, is just before lunch time, and I’m happy to say that when they do my class, they don’t need lunch any more because they eat what they make,” he said.

Big Sunday organizers say they highlight the volunteer spirit one weekend every year, and encourage volunteers to help throughout the year.

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