(March 27, 2011)

Contact: Rick DelaHaya, Centenary News Services, 318.869.5073

The Times: Centenary faculty, students help community in Big Event

courtesy The Shreveport Times

Written by Michele Marcotte email

SHREVEPORT, La. — With the help of a few garden tools and the energy of several Centenary College students and staff, Shreveport resident Dorothy Jordan stood in amazement Saturday morning as she saw her backyard underwent a transformation.

Dominic Calinas
Dominic Calinas trims a tree at a house on Rutherford Street as part of Centenary College's annual BIG Event, a day of service that helps beautify the surrounding neighborhoods. / Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times

"I'll finally be able to see through the fence," she said with a grin, as several members of the college's swim team removed bundles of brush from the areas surrounding her backyard fence.

The project was one that many students, faculty and staff undertook Saturday as part of the fourth annual Big Event.

"The volunteers have been very enthusiastic this year," said Kayla Tibaldo, event organizer. "I couldn't ask for a better group."

In addition to residential homes, volunteers assisted community parks and properties, including the Renzi Education and Art Center.

"This is a really great opportunity to help out the community and have fun and get dirty," said Jackson Blankstein, a sophomore math and physics major who spent much of the morning doing various outdoor tasks to open up a space for the center's children to play.

"A lot of these kids don't have backyards so they play in the street," said Jason Harris, a senior communication major. "This will help with that."

The two were part of a group of math students who, similar to the college's swimmers, wanted to help the community as a team.

"How often do you get to do yard work with your friends?" Blankstein asked.

Sophomore Krista McKinney had the same idea when she learned about the Big Event.

"I knew all my friends would want to do it, so I signed up," she said.

McKinney, like many of the other students working at the Renzi Education and Art Center, said she felt good knowing she was helping her community and building relationships with people she might not have otherwise met at the same time.

The Big Event is considered the largest, one-day, student-run service project in the nation.

About Centenary College of Louisiana

Centenary College is a private, four-year arts and sciences college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1825, it is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Centenary is one of 16 colleges and universities constituting the Associated Colleges of the South and has been recognized as "One of the Best 371 Colleges" by the Princeton Review and one of "America's Best Colleges" and one of "America's Best Private Colleges" by Forbes.com. In 2008 Centenary College celebrated 100 years in Shreveport and Bossier City.