Beth Brewster was ecstatic to have volunteers at the East Baton Rouge Parish Animal Control and Rescue Center by her side to help with manual labor.

Brewster, executive director of the Companion Animal Alliance, a nonprofit organization that runs the Progress Road center, said the shelter usually sees many volunteers, but not often ones with the kind of strength necessary to perform some of the more heavy-duty tasks.

“To have them be able to focus on specific projects that I’ve been wanting to do since I got here is awesome,” she said.

The Companion Animal Alliance was one of about 30 organizations or homes that benefitted Saturday from the efforts of about 1,000 LSU students, faculty and staff volunteers who participated in Geaux BIG, a large-scale community service project organized by LSU students and the university’s Campus Life department.

Homeowners and nonprofit organizations in East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge parishes submitted requests in January and February for volunteer help, according to an LSU news release.

Geaux BIG organizers assessed the sites to develop work plans. Volunteers were then divided into teams to work at all the different areas.

The volunteers began their day by congregating at the softball field next to LSU’s recreation center for a ceremony that served as both an introduction and a pep rally for the project.

“I have one question for you this morning — are y’all ready to geaux big?” said Geaux BIG student director Elaine Giles, to the applause of participants.

William Jenkins, LSU’s interim chancellor and system president, and F. King Alexander, his newly appointed replacement, both thanked and praised the students for their efforts — especially considering the ceremony started about 8 a.m.

“I also want to thank all of you that probably stayed up all night and just came over here,” Alexander said joking.

The students dispersed to various sites across both parishes after the ceremony.

Carl Bakenhus, a junior music major and project planner with Volunteer LSU, said he was on his way to Hope Ministries to help with painting and beautification. He said he was happy to see so many volunteers and hopes to see more in the future.

“I think that community service is a good way to restore balance within the community for those who really need help,” he said.

At Companion Animal Alliance, students cleaned the inside and outside of the facility, in addition to painting walls and landscaping.

DeAndre Beadle, an LSU junior and member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, helped paint the walls of a room that Brewster said will soon be turned into a veterinary clinic for the animals.

Beadle said some of his fellow fraternity brothers were outside cleaning up manure.

“We got the easier job,” he said with a laugh.

Beadle said he and other members of Alpha Phi Alpha try to join in on community service projects whenever they can.

“The Geaux BIG project, this is its debut at LSU in Baton Rouge, and we wanted to be a part of that experience,” he said.

The parish animal shelter has gone through rough times since the Companion Animal Alliance took over its operations in 2011 in a public-private partnership.

Brewster is the alliance’s fourth executive director since that takeover. She replaced Kim Sherlaw, who resigned in December after employees accused her of poor management and protocol violations.

Brewster said Saturday that she was thankful for the volunteer help.

“It’s just nice to have community backing again,” she said.