Service-Minded Comets Support Local Nonprofits as Viva Volunteers
More Than 400 Participants Served at 23 Community Sites, Contributing More Than 2,000 Hours of Labor
Students from The University of Texas at Dallas gained perspective beyond their normal college experience after spending a recent morning packing toothbrushes, deodorant and towels for the homeless.
“I don’t think many students have taken the opportunity to visit a homeless shelter. When you create hygiene kits for people, you realize you take things for granted. It definitely was an eye-opening experience,” said Andrew Shaw, program coordinator for the Student Organization Center.
Shaw participated with a team of six students in a Viva Volunteer project at The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center.
Organized by the Office of Student Volunteerism (OSV), Viva Volunteer drew more than 400 participants this year from 29 UT Dallas student organizations and scholarship groups for a day of service at 23 community sites. The project coincided with the national Make a Difference Day on Oct. 28.
Good Deeds Span Across the Community
The volunteers’ tasks included assembling furniture at area Habitat for Humanity ReStores, sorting donations for Goodwill Industries, spreading mulch at the Texas Worm Ranch, hosing down kennels and washing blankets at the Plano Animal Shelter, and planting the first fruit orchard trees on the UT Dallas campus.
“Volunteering helps students develop empathy, cultivate community responsibility and become active citizens. … Viva Volunteer mobilizes volunteer labor and helps community agencies achieve their missions.”
The volunteers' combined 2,045 hours of donated labor saved nonprofit organizations more than $51,000.
“Volunteering helps students develop empathy, cultivate community responsibility and become active citizens,” said Mackenzie Hunter, the OSV’s interim director. “Besides promoting student development, Viva Volunteer mobilizes volunteer labor and helps community agencies achieve their missions.”
First-time agency participants included The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center, Equest, Moorland Family YMCA and Legacy Senior Communities.
Shahana Shaikh, a finance senior and a student worker for the Student Organization Center, had never been to The Bridge’s facility before.
“The moment that affected me the most was seeing employees of the program who had gone through the program itself,” Shaikh said. “It’s very easy to get stressed out with whatever is going on in your life, but these people taught me to be grateful even in the toughest times.”
Helping Hands Clean Horse Stalls, Build Playground
Lendon Burnett, an accounting and finance junior and an Army veteran, led a team of 10 student-veterans at Equest, the first therapeutic riding center in Texas and one of the largest in the country.
Volunteers mucked 30 horse stalls, “which is about how it sounds,” Burnett said.
“It took us 10 to 15 minutes to clean each stall and put down new bedding. Usually a staff of two handles that task, so we were able to free them up to do other things. I would definitely do it again,” said Burnett, who is also a student leader and peer advisor at the University’s Military and Veteran Center.
Vivian Nguyen, a molecular biology sophomore and a student leader at the OSV, participated with a team of McDermott Scholars and badminton club members who joined other community volunteers in building a playground at the Moorland Family YMCA.
“It was heartwarming to see the whole community come together for something that will make a difference for generations to come,” Nguyen said.
Sarah Deering, a representative for the City of Richardson Community Services, expressed appreciation for students who were eager to clean an elderly resident’s backyard.
“What I enjoyed the most was getting to know the students. They were very welcoming and helpful. I never once had to ask them to do something. They jumped right in,” Deering said.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].