A fresh bag of dirt, a flat of purple petunias and several sets of hands helped transform the porch of the Daily Living Center in Bethany into a spring garden.
More than 5,000 students, faculty and staff from the University of Oklahoma helped participate in the Big Event on Saturday by spending the day performing jobs and working on projects at 150 community organizations in Norman and in the Oklahoma City metro area.
Francis Smith, 83, was working alongside volunteer Grant Hamlin planting flowers. Hamlin, a freshman at Oklahoma Christian School, also spent the day volunteering for the Big Event.
Big Event volunteers work in groups of their own choosing or team up with other individual volunteers. Many clubs, fraternities, sororities and church groups make up the Big Event teams.
Smith, who likes to spend time talking with other seniors at the Daily Living Center, said it had been many years since she had planted anything, but added that when she was younger she had quite the green thumb.
“We grew anything you could put into the ground,” Smith said. “Flowers, onions, potatoes; mostly things you could eat. It is nice to have people to garden with again.”
While Smith and Hamlin discussed how best to arrange flowers in a planter, Jodie Neal and Mindy Coleman worked on a pot of their own.
The two are roommates at OU and said they both were interested in volunteering when they heard about the Big Event.
“It's just nice to get out and meet new people and do some good,” Coleman said. “Getting to learn about everyone's interests is fun too. Like Francis, she just seems to really love gardening.”
Traci Lucas, who is the activities director for the Daily Living Center, said volunteers bring fresh energy to the center and projects like the Big Event are most appreciated.
“We have so many awesome students that come to volunteer and everyone here loves it,” she said. “We discovered that 90 percent of the time when someone comes to volunteer they almost always come back on their own to do it again.
“They love it just as much as we do.”