In 2008, Oprah’s Big Give was hitting TV screens all over America. Each episode followed its contestants as they traveled the country, donating time and money to help individuals and organizations. The show only lasted one season, but it got Brandon Burling and Amanda Gallagher, of Alamogordo, N.M., thinking about how they could do something like it, right here in their hometown.
I caught up with Brandon while he was at the Toy Train Depot, where a 2019 Alamo Big Give team was busy working away. Each year teams of 5-15 people sign up to compete in the Big Give, and go to businesses, non-profits, organizations or individuals in need, and donate their time, services, and material. Each team is made up of volunteers, and they get one month to complete their project. At the end of the month, the Big Give panel votes for the winning team.
Over 11 years ago, Brandon and Amanda were able to raise $2500 for the Big Give winners. Toyota found out about the project, and offered to match the grand prize, making it $5000. That first year there were 8 teams competing. Bobby Martinez of Desert Sun Toyota was so impressed with the contest, and the incredible benefits to the community, that he doubled the grand prize and has been providing $10,000 a year in prize money ever since.
In the last 11 years, Brandon has seen the impacts from various teams have a ripple effect through the town. “Just about anybody and everybody [in Alamogordo] has been touched by this.” Many of the teams have turned around and put their winnings right back into the project they started.
The Big Give started off as Holloman’s Big Give, and the teams were made up of men and women from our local Air Force base. It has become a staple in the community and an amazing way to bridge the gap between Holloman and Alamogordo. Brandon would love to see the Alamo Big Give grow and see even more community engagement, from local businesses and organizations, to citizens who want to participate.
This year the Big Give is still going strong, with teams working on their projects all through the month of August. You can see what the various teams are up to at the Alamo Big Give Facebook page.
The creation of the Alamo Big Give project, and all of the many projects it has inspired, are achievements worth noting. Brandon put it best: “I was born and raised here, and to see these projects come in to better Alamogordo…whether it’s a new roof on the Boy’s and Girl’s club or rebuilding the United Way office, a team of Big Give people did it.”