Community Groups Enlist Volunteers, Bauer Students

Published on February 18, 2009

Students Find Community Service Opportunities at Volunteer Expo

The college’s first-ever Volunteer Expo gave students the chance to connect with local non-profit organizations to learn about community service opportunities.

The college’s first-ever Volunteer Expo gave students the chance to connect with local non-profit organizations to learn about community service opportunities.

Community outreach is one of the cornerstones of the student experience at the University of Houston Bauer College of Business. In February, students signed up to give their time, effort and enthusiasm to various non-profit organizations at the first Volunteer Expo, organized by Business Student Activities.

About 20 non-profit organizations set up booths along the back drum of Melcher Hall seeking volunteers for various causes. Business Student Activities advisor Stephanie Krauss said that aside from students showcasing their talents, connecting to the local community is important.

“Civic responsibility is very important to be well-rounded and aware of what is going on around you,” she added. “I wanted this expo to show students that there are so many different ways that they can give back to the community.”

Representatives from organizations said they looked for enthusiasm and a willingness to help when recruiting volunteers. Bering Omega Community Services, which assists individuals with HIV and AIDS, were among the organizations present at the expo.

“I think the ones who are looking to volunteer are very interested and really keen on getting involved,” said Laura Burns, a Bering Omega representative.

Several other non-profit recruiters were impressed with the enthusiasm of UH Bauer students to give back to the community. The expo gave local organizations the chance to explain their causes to potential volunteers.

“It gives us an opportunity to recruit more volunteers, and we always need more volunteers,” said Cate Thuo, a representative for Skills for Living, a program that has partnered with UH Bauer students and staff in the past to teach high school students the significant impact higher education and skills in finance and career planning can have.

Neighborhood Centers Inc. was also at the expo, searching for accounting students willing to prepare taxes for lower income families. Volunteer coordinator Stasha Scruggs said that the event gave her organization the idea to work with faculty members from the college’s Department of Accountancy and Taxation to provide tax preparation training for families in need.

Students were also interested in participating, she added. Having the opportunity to be visible on campus really helped to let students know about different volunteering opportunities that are available, Scruggs said. “It’s great to get the word out,” she said.

The GardenPlay Project, an organization from League City, was also present at the expo to get as many helping hands as possible. “We were so honored to be picked,” said Shelia Thorne, a recruiter for the GardenPlay Project. “We were just tickled pink.”

The GardenPlay Project is part of Kaboom, a larger organization dedicated to building playgrounds within walking distance of children. During the expo, Thorne said faculty members provided small monetary donations while a student offered to organize fundraisers. “One student brought back a friend,” she said.

Thorne said the expo helped lesser known organizations get noticed and facilitated signing up volunteers. “I’m ecstatic to have contacts,” she said. “It only takes one.”

Krauss said she expects to have about 15 to 20 organizations participate in future expos and have between 150 to 300 students help out non-profit groups in various capacities.

By Mayra Cruz