The Big Event
The students, faculty and alumni of James Madison University are about to make a big impact by volunteering with the Big Event. On April 14, thousands of participants are expected to take part in the second annual Big Event, a student-organized day of service intended to show appreciation and make a positive impact on our community.
Student Greater Madison and the Student Government Association, co-sponsors of the Big Event, have worked all year to secure service locations and recruit volunteers. The committee hopes to engage several thousand participants this year.
“We have a lot of great service projects planned for this year and are looking forward to again showing the Harrisonburg community how appreciative JMU is for their continued support over the years,” said Big Event Director of Outreach Jade Morse. JMU volunteers will participate in service projects such as clean-up jobs, lawn work and nonprofit organization work.
This year the Big Event is expanding to include JMU alumni. Alumni are encouraged to sign up and volunteer with their local chapter.
“This year, we are excited to work with the Alumni Association,” said Executive Director of Student Greater Madison Truman Horwitz. “Through them, we have managed to create mini-Big Events around the nation, put on by alumni in various locations. These events will occur at the same time on the same day as The Big Event here.”
Volunteers are encouraged to visit and sign up at www.jmu.edu/thebigevent/. Students can sign up individually or as a team. Alumni can visit www.jmu.edu/alumni/involved/bigevent.shtml to view participating chapters.
A Harrisonburg restaurant owner envisions long-term benefits from an herb and vegetable garden being designed and maintained by two integrated science and technology students.
"I think it's just an absolute win-win situation," said Katrina Didot, owner of A Bowl of Good.
Sam Frere and Dan Warren, both juniors, also see long-term benefits for their project, not just for the restaurant, but for others in the area who want to learn about sustainable gardening and business practices.
"This project embodies being a citizen, a steward," said Frere, who grew up on a farm along the Chesapeake Bay in Lancaster, Va. "I fully support the local organic food movement and I want to be part of the movement. We see the Valley on the brink of a community-based ingenuity explosion and we want to help it reach that point. All over wee see people who are becoming more and more enlightened about the sources of their food and energy."
Along with the garden, the two students, who are volunteering their time to work on the project, also are drawing up plans for a cistern and making plans for a composting system. The cistern will catch rainwater that can be used to water the garden and, perhaps at some point, be used for water needs inside the restaurant. The water collection system will involve catching water from the roof of the building.
Compost from the restaurant will be used to fertilize the garden and to condition the rocky soil. By composting food waste, the restaurant also will reduce what it sends to the county landfill.
"This project integrates multiple systems to make each of them sustainable," said Warren, a native of nearby Mount Jackson. "In doing so, it will create a beautiful symbiosis between the environment and the restaurant, which Sam and I hope will continue for years to come."
This year's warmer-than-normal winter and spring have provided a quick start to the growing season and some plants are already sprouting in the garden. Frere and Warren have planted long-standing Bloomingdale spinach, ruby red Swiss chard, lambs quarters, cilantro and a couple types of kale. Among plants they have started growing at home and will transplant in the garden are green bell peppers, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, basil, dill, tomatoes, pole beans and oregano.
By the end of the spring semester, which comes to a close the first week of May, all the planting should be complete. But there will be plenty of work remaining. Both Frere, who started the project in December 2011, and Warren, who recently joined the effort, plan to work on the garden and other parts of their project through the upcoming summer and next school year as well.
Frere—who is concentrating in applied biotechnology, environmental science and global water scarcity—said he will use the project for his honor's thesis. Both Frere and Warren—who is concentrating in applied biotechnology, environment and engineering/manufacturing—will use it as their senior capstone project next year.
"This is a great opportunity for Sam to show his stuff because he knows a lot," Didot said. "This is a great place for him to show his knowledge and use it and experiment. So he's learning and teaching us along the way."
Said Frere, "We hope that our work here will not only benefit Katrina and the Bowl of Good, but also springboard us into being able to create sustainable and integrative solutions throughout the city of Harrisonburg."
Published April 9, 2012