Bobcat Build event sees record number of volunteers

Trends Reporter

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Jimmy Nelson, member of the P-16 Initiaives organization, shovels fresh mulch on the lawn of a West San Antonio Street home March 29 during this year's Bobcat Build.

Gardening aficionado Lura Brown has always loved tending to her plants and flowers, but in recent years, this task has become too much for the 95-year-old San Marcos resident. Brown’s garden, however, remains lush thanks to a team of Bobcat Build student volunteers who help maintain her lawn each year.

“Students do a really good job,” said Linda Vetters, Brown’s daughter. “Overall, it’s a good time for both parties.”

The 12th annual Bobcat Build, the second-largest one-day community service event in the state, returned to San Marcos Saturday, boasting a record number of volunteers with an estimated 4,200 people at about 250 job sites.

Bobcat Build is designed to foster a healthy relationship between students and residents, said Flori Moreno, Bobcat Build programs co-chair. Bobcat Build officers select job sites for volunteers based on a request form filled out by residents and an inspection visit at locations in the community. No power-tool required job sites are accepted, and student safety is crucial, Moreno said.

“It’s a lot of work and hours, but in the end it’s a great experience,” Moreno said. “In the end, you know you’ve done something good, and it’s nice to hear how much it means to the residents.”

Bobcat Build has grown from a small organization into a nationally recognized community service program over the years. Moreno said about 500 to 1,000 more volunteers participate in Bobcat Build each year.

Beyond helping the community, volunteers and job site owners agree Bobcat Build is a platform for change. The community’s perception of students has become more positive over time through the annual event, Vetters said.

“The people who (own the job sites) get a whole different view of college kids,” Vetters said. “We see that college students are helpful, kind and considerate.”

Bobcat Build officers are at the helm of the event’s rapid growth. In the past year, the group visited Texas A&M’s community service conference to learn strategies for growing Bobcat Build in the future. Texas A&M runs a similar nationally recognized program called the Big Event. During the conference, Bobcat Build officers sat in on panels about sponsorships and community relations.

San Marcos residents welcomed Texas State into their community, so it is important to reciprocate that kindness, said Katie Blocker, family and consumer science sophomore.

“I know that college students party, it’s part of going to college, let’s face it,” Vetters said. “We let students help because we know this event is well organized. Most of us are older, and we are just grateful.”