By Jessica Bruha and Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — University of Oklahoma students, faculty, staff and alumni spread out through Norman and the Oklahoma City metro area dedicating part of their day to community service.
There were approximately 150 job sites throughout the metropolitan area with an estimated 5,500 volunteers to lend a helping hand for the 15th annual Big Event.
“They’re doing an amazing job,” said Kim Gaddy, one of the event coordinators, as students pick up dead limbs and debris at Prairie Rose, behind Roosevelt Elementary School.
Gaddy said this year about 280 volunteers showed up to help clear the area that’s roughly three to four acres.
“It helps us because it is such a big area,” she said. “It makes a big impact in a short amount of time.”
The Big Event kicked off at 9 a.m. on campus at the North Oval with remarks from OU President David Boren before volunteers dispersed for activities across the metro area, working until 2 p.m.
Gaddy said with the reclaimed area behind the school they plan on putting in butterfly gardens, a vegetable garden and a small pond area for wildlife. OU is helping give the elementary students access to these resources, she said.
“They realize they’re doing it for the kids and the community,” Gaddy said.
Across town, a smaller group of seven OU volunteers worked alongside Sierra Club organizers to remove items of trash from the Morgan Park section of Brookhaven Creek.
Tires, Styrofoam, old toys, plastic bottles and bags and other trash finds its way into Norman’s creeks and streams, endangering wildlife and polluting water that eventually makes its way into Lake Thunderbird or the Canadian River.
Fallen trees and brush, muck, mud and marsh are supposed to be part of the natural setting, but those elements didn’t make getting to the plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups littering the Brookhaven area easy.
“This has been one of the tougher sites that we’ve been at,” said Hosanna Morris, president of Alpha Epsilon Delta, a national health pre-professionals group that participated in the clean up.
Casey Holcomb, event coordinator for the Sierra Club, said much of the debris appears to have blown into the creek channel by Oklahoma’s strong winds. The trees and brush that protect the creek and its banks from erosion also trap trash which, in addition to being an eyesore, are hazardous for wildlife and the environment.
Blue Thumb volunteer Karen Chapman said keeping Norman’s creeks clean is a a year-round challenge and having help from OU students was a big plus.
Volunteers also assisted in preparation for the Festival of the Arts with the Arts Council of Oklahoma City. Some of that preparation included painting and working on the stage area.
Festival of the Arts Director Angela Cozby said festival setup takes about four weeks.
“OU Big Event volunteers are always a tremendous help to us,” Cozby said. “We appreciate the generosity OU students, faculty and staff have shown in years past and are thrilled to partner with them again.”
The Festival of the Arts will be held April 22-27 in downtown Oklahoma City at the Festival Plaza and Myriad Botanical Gardens.
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