Big Sunday founder to speak Nov. 19

By Caitie Benell

The founder of Big Sunday told students at an upper school assembly on Friday to find something they enjoy doing and give it back to the community.

David Levinson encouraged students to make volunteering fun and said that there is always something you can do to give back. Older people tend to give the younger generation a hard time, but “giving back is in your DNA,” Levinson said.

Big Sunday originally started out as a Mitzvah Day at Levinson’s temple. When his rabbi asked Levinson to help run this day there were 17 projects with 300 volunteers. Now over 10 years later, Big Sunday has turned into a 500 project weekend with more than 50,000 volunteers. Big Sunday really took off three years after Levinson agreed to help during the Mitzvah Day, he said when young people from two churches joined teenagers from Covenant House and worked together.

“It was at that moment that we went from a community service day to a community building day” Levinson said.

Now Big Sunday has a year-round calendar with over 60 events per month and Levinson has been urging people to volunteer. It does not matter if you don’t have a special talent, there is always some way anyone can help, Levinson said. No matter if a Hollywood celebrity or a homeless person, every volunteer is treated the same and is trying to reach the same goal.

“We meet the need and find some way to do it,” Levinson said.

One holiday season, a women’s center called Levinson in need of money for families to pay for their Thanksgiving dinner. On such short notice Levinson sent out an e-mail and just two hours later found a man from a neighboring church at his doorstep with a check for $300.

“For people whose lives are easy, the holidays are easy, but for people whose lives are tough, the holidays are tough” Levinson told students.

On Hanukkah, Levinson promised a nursing home a choir, so he gathered his friends and their children and took them to the nursing home. At first the seniors were disappointed to see teenagers instead of young children, but after a few songs they were standing, clapping, and enjoying themselves. Levinson noticed a grim woman sitting in the back with a frown on her face. At the end of the night she came up to him and said, that was a lot of fun. It moments like this the Levinson knows he is doing something really special, “whatever I had given to her in that moment she game me so much more,” Levinson said.

Levinson hopes to expand the Big Sunday organization all over California. The largest project was at a school in Watts where they painted and fixed up classrooms, and sold clothing 25 cents apiece. Levinson encourages everyone to go into community service with an open mind and a positive attitude, because in the end most people just want to know that they haven’t been forgotten.

“It’s not the what, it’s the how,” Levinson said.