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CARBONDALE — Saluki maroon painted the town Saturday — and these dawgs did a bit of painting themselves.

More than 1,200 students, faculty and staff from Southern Illinois University Carbondale volunteered their time and energy to assist with nearly 20 service projects in Carbondale and beyond. The inaugural “Big Event: A Saluki Day of Service,” represented the biggest, one-day service project in the history of SIU Carbondale, according to the university.

“This is what we do and it is who were are … service is in our DNA,” said Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell, who was among the volunteers working around town on Saturday. “We want the community to know how much we appreciate its support of our university. This is a great way to show that we place a priority on being a good neighbor and a good partner.”

The volunteers helped spruce up the buildings and grounds of area nonprofits by painting, cleaning and doing yardwork; they picked up garbage around town; planted trees; made sleeping mats for the homeless; assisted with fundraisers benefiting students and orphans in Bangladesh and the Autism Society of Southern Illinois; and created care packages and ‘thank you’ cards for first responders and veterans. That’s just to name a few of the ways Salukis gave of their time and effort this weekend.

Several of the students who participated said they hope Saturday's event marks the start of a lasting tradition for the university.

“Sometimes you just lose touch of what is important in front of us, because of social media and everything like that,” said Nisa Fareeha, a junior from Malaysia studying public relations and art history, and who served as a site leader on Saturday for a painting project at the Boys & Girls Club of Carbondale. “When people take their time and give back and become more involved in the community, you just get a sense of humanity back again.”

Fareeha and about 25 other volunteers affiliated with SIU helped paint four rooms at the after-school club for youth. Randy Osborn, the Boys and Girls Club’s executive director, said he was thrilled for the help. The club has never had the manpower or money to do what was accomplished Saturday, he said. 

In what he describe as a “win-win-win,” Osborn said the club also benefited from a generous donation of paint for the project from Murdale True Value. The paint was provided through a True Value Co. “Painting a Brighter Future” grant that was coordinated by Murdale True Value owner George Sheffer, according to Osborn. Osborn said he also was grateful for Sheffer's involvement, as 20 gallons of paint worth about $600 were donated, Osborn said.

After finishing up the painting project at the Boys & Girls Club around noon, student Alex Duda, a junior from Villa Park studying outdoor recreation, looked around at the freshly painted, brightly colored rooms in the basement of the old Carbondale High School, and said he felt accomplished. Duda also serves as an intern at the club, and said he’s eager to see the reactions from the students when they arrive on Monday. “The kids will love it,” he said.

“We’re here for only a short time,” Duda said of SIU students who come to Carbondale to study from all over the state, country and world, “but it’s nice to be involved in the community and really get out there … Waking up at 7 a.m. this morning wasn’t the easiest, but getting up and active, it definitely feels really good.”

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On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI ​



Molly Parker is general assignment and investigative projects reporter for The Southern Illinoisan.

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