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Sunday, July 3, 2022

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UH students help spread holiday cheer with Harvest Fest


Roughly 16 years ago in the east end of Houston, a young trick-or-treater was making his way through his neighborhood, as many children do on Halloween, when he was tragically shot during a drive-by shooting.

This terrible incident created not only a want but also a need for serious action, considering no child or parent should have to celebrate a holiday in fear. The members of the Sigma Lambda Beta Mu chapter at UH, along with other various organizations, reached out to the community and established the annual event Harvest Fest in order to provide a safe atmosphere where the kids of the community could enjoy Halloween.

Beginning in 1999, Harvest Fest is an event that takes place every year around Halloween at the Ripley House Neighborhood Center in Houston’s Second Ward. Two months prior to October, the Sigma Lambda Beta chapter begins coordinating with organizations from other Houston college campuses like Texas Southern University and University of Houston Downtown. Each group creates its own booth that includes fun, interactive games and activities such as “Pin the Broom on the Witch” or making Halloween masks.

One of the main attractions is the haunted house created for kids by Sigma Lambda Beta. Creating the haunted house alone takes multiple days to set up.

“I feel as if Harvest Fest provides a sense of inspiration and hope for the kids considering the fact that the volunteers are college students,” Sigma Lambda member and biochemistry senior Henry Delgado said. “I believe that the work being done will change the future of these kids for the better and encourage them to seek a better lifestyle through hard work and academics.”

All that Harvest Fest encompasses is completely free to the families that wish to attend. The fact that families of the low-income neighborhood surrounding the Ripley House can access all of these festivities free of charge strongly encourages them to experience what Harvest Fest has to offer. Not only that, but it also creates a familial and welcoming atmosphere.

A situation similar to the casualty of the drive-by shooting years ago should never have to arise again with the safe alternative of a friendly festival.

“I always say to myself and my chapter if you can help out at least for 30 minutes and make someone smile, you already made a difference,” Sigma Lambda Beta member and 2013 Bauer alum Alan Peralta said, reflecting what he says is one of his fraternity’s missions: giving back to the community.

This year Harvest Fest will fall on Friday. The members of the several organizations that put work into planning this day are anticipating an excellent turnout, after spreading the word through flyers around their community and universities. Anyone is welcome, especially UH students, to help set up and contribute whatever time they can.

“Each year I am doing something different, whether it be handing out candy, dressing up and scaring children, or setting up the haunted house,” political science alum Juan Castillo said.

The spring version of Harvest Fest is Easter Eggstravaganza, an event that aims to provide a similar hospitable experience to the underprivileged children of the surrounding areas.

“Helping out the community can be a blessing and (helps open) many new doors and opportunities for a brighter future,” Peralta said.

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