The Big Sunday event, which has grown in popularity since 1999, encompassed 362 volunteer projects in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange and Riverside counties. Big Sunday, a partnership with the office of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is still enlisting volunteers at www.bigsunday.org for 237 community projects today. The give-back ends in a big pizza bash at Griffith Park tonight. In Los Angeles, organizers say the outburst of community service wipes out the stereotype of a self-absorbed city hostile to its neighbors. “Oh, man … it’s just been an amazing day – there is so much (being) accomplished around the city it could take your breath away,” exclaimed Big Sunday spokeswoman Rachel Schwartz. Suddenly, there were vegetables in North Hollywood. Troop care packages in Encino. A spruced-up animal shelter in Chatsworth. Community service erupted across Southern California during a Big Sunday volunteer weekend billed as the largest volunteer give-back in the nation. “Normally, I’d be in bed with my wife, asleep,” Dexter Conner, 28, of Toluca Lake said while raking soil to create a “hidden garden” in North Hollywood. “I’m just trying to help out when I can.” And help out they did – and will. As many as 50,000 volunteers are rolling out of bed to paint over graffiti, plant gardens, spritz schoolyards and more. In Pacoima, 400 volunteers sodded an entire soccer field at Bert Corona Charter School in two hours. In North Hollywood, about 50 children and adults created a Rio Vista Hidden Garden at North Weddington Park, turning a weed-filled corner into a haven for “champion tomatoes” and other pickings. “You can actually make soup out of these squash blossoms,” said Rhonda Hakimovich, a Rio Vista Elementary School teacher making a mound for squash, corn and beans for a succotash for her students. In Encino, nearly 100 volunteers sorted T-shirts, CDs, suntan lotion and other treats destined for troops overseas. Operation Gratitude, working in numerous shifts at the state National Guard Armory, drew volunteers from as far away as Rancho Cucamonga. “I feel a debt to those in the service under fire today,” Jack Knight, a 69-year-old volunteer from Studio City, said in between crooning showtunes for care-package sorters. “If we didn’t have (volunteer) Little Leaguers, food-bank workers, church volunteers, this country would stand still,” he said. In Chatsworth, dozens of volunteers shared in a Help Some Old Dogs Find Some New Homes event, decorating and painting signs at the West Valley Animal Care Center. “I even gave up my finals soccer game for this thing,” said Jose Ruiz, 14, of Winnetka. “This is my good deed for the day.” [email protected] dailynews.com (818) 713-3730160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!