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The Big Event

students place pavers to create walkway.
Student in Free Enterprise members are volunteering at Mercy House.

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 head for business, a heart for the world

Students involved in James Madison University’s Student in Free Enterprise are using their business degrees to impact the community around them. With help from Lowe’s, 14 active members have been working to revamp Harrisonburg’s Mercy House. Applying theories learned in their entrepreneurial and management classes, the students are learning that stepping outside of the classroom can change the way they look at the world.

In February 2012, the JMU SIFE team applied for a $2,000 grant from Lowe’s to implement their community project. After being awarded the grant, SIFE worked with the local Lowe’s store to gather the materials they needed to begin work at the Mercy House. Dr. Bill Ritchie, the faculty advisor to SIFE, says, “Lowe’s is a great model for the team of what giving back looks like. They deliver on a local level by decentralizing giving and letting the locals find the needs in their community,” he adds. This month, the SIFE team will submit a portfolio of the work they have done so far using the grant, to apply for an additional $5,000. This teaches the students to, “handle the small things well, because they matter” says Ritchie. The team gets the chance to see what they can do with $2,000 in the hopes that it can become more.

According to Allison von Hausen, a double major in Finance and Management and the president of JMU SIFE, the team chose the Mercy House as their project because of their shared values. Over the past month, the team has worked to refurbish an apartment at the Mercy House, which provides housing for the homeless. Individuals living in these apartments are provided with lodging, food and clothing, allowing them to devote energy toward re-entering the workforce. Training and education programs offered by Mercy House empower residents to pursue homeownership and asset-building, while the program requires they establish employment and a steady income.

On their past two visits to Mercy House, the SIFE team has worked on changing fixtures, replacing ceiling tiles, adding lighting and painting walls. The team has also worked on the outdoor playground painting the equipment, spreading mulch, weeding the pathway and adding landscape timbers. On their next visit, scheduled for April 15, the group will work in the Mercy House nursery cleaning toys and painting the room. “This kind of service gives the students a broader view of what society is and increases their awareness of the needs in our community,” says Ritchie.

“I think it makes us better prepared to be leaders in the real world,” says von Hausen. “It teaches us about taking initiative and offers us the opportunity to apply the management skills we have learned in class,” she adds. “Too often these days, students are coming out of college with a sense of entitlement, but service projects like this are humbling and they remind us to have compassion for others because the future can be uneasy,” continues von Hausen.

SIFE, an international non-profit, has over 57,000 students involved in 6,500 team community projects across the world. With 1,600 active teams in 39 countries, the mission of SIFE is to “bring together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business.” With schools ranging from the University of Virginia to Texas A&M across countries ranging from Australia and Egypt to Brazil and Russia, SIFE mobilizes university students to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills necessary to become socially responsible business leaders. SIFE is fully sponsored by donations from corporations such as Coca Cola, Unilever, Walmart and Lowe’s. Together they provide students with the support they need as they venture to impact the communities around them.


Published April 10, 2012