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Friday, May 24, 2019

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Day of Service rings in stronger community


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Petroleum engineering freshman Gordon Trehern, biology freshman Deborah Okoro and business freshman Sarah Everett help at Weeks of Welcome Day of Service event, hosted by the Center for Student Involvement. | Brittaney Penney/The Cougar

The Center for Student Involvement, with the help of various organizations, brought out 130 student volunteers to five locations early Saturday morning, helping non-profit organizations to beautify and polish homes in the Third Ward and organize clutter in Houston’s Public Library, among other good deeds.

Cougar spirit and a sense of community were a vital goal during the day of service, according to Associate Director for Leadership and Civic Engagement Stephanie Schmidt and graduate assistant Ellen Stein.

“Incorporating service into all these fun community events really puts an important principle and value here at UH,” Stein said. “It sends that message to new students which I think is awesome.”

The volunteers, supervised by 18 site leaders, aided the Houston community at five different volunteer sites: Generation One, the Houston Public Library, Meals on Wheels, McGovern Centennial Gardens at Hermann Park and Forge for Families. Students split up into two separate volunteer shifts.

The first shift divided the students into three programs: Generation One volunteers picked up trash, painted and scrapped houses, the Hermann Park McGovern Centennial Garden group planted new plants and grass and Meals on Wheels volunteers packed breakfast bundles for senior citizens and their pets.

Biomedical sciences sophomore Farrah Rahim, the Metropolitan Volunteer Program’s Annual Events Chair, realized the significance of the work upon meeting the owner.

“She repeatedly thanked us for the time and work we were putting into making the house look new again,” Rahim said. “It was an incredible experience.”

Computer science sophomore Michelle Tran, who volunteered with Meals on Wheels, heard of the prominent organization, but at first didn’t know exactly what they did.

“I was struck by how many elderly people who can’t cook for themselves or get their own groceries,” Tran said.

“Plus, they started noticing the fact that a lot of the people they helped out would give some of their food to their pets, so we also spent some quality time packaging some dog and cat food.”

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Biochemistry senior Cecilia Pham helps sorts books as part of the Day of Service. | Brittaney Penney/The Cougar

The second shift helped Generation One paint houses. Some other volunteers focused on painting classrooms for Forge for Families, another non-profit organization within the Third Ward. Others engulfed themselves into a scavenger hunt in the Houston Public Library in McKinney Street where volunteers sorted, cleared and shelved books back in place.

Alyana Guerra, one of the library site leaders said she enjoyed her community hours spent in the library, attributing it to her love for books.

“We helped out with finding books that got lost in the library’s transition into a new system,” Guerra said. “Although it was a small task, at the end everyone expressed interest in volunteering more with MVP events.”

Programs like MVP and the Bonner Leaders Program helped run things smoothly said Stein and Schmidt, as well as others programs like the Ignite Leadership Program, Student Government Association and Baptist Student Ministry.

Schmidt said their initial budget for the Day of Service was $5,000, but overall the organizations spent roughly $6,000.

“The mantra we’ve adopted this year is to connect students and help them discover culture and community,” Stein said.

CSI’s goal is to get more students involved in aiding the community surrounding them, building service as an entertaining and respectable reputation. Students like Tran, doesn’t see why that’s not possible.

“Going out to certain events like things makes you realize there are so many other lifestyles aside from yours,” Tran said. “If you could help them, why shouldn’t you?”

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