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Monday, February 06, 2023 — Houston, TX

Volunteer opportunities within and beyond the hedges

Illustrated by Katherine Chi

By Zoe Katz     3/1/22 11:14pm

Community service can look different for everyone – on campus vs. off, remote vs. in-person, weekly vs. a one-time commitment  – and something great about Houston is that it has many opportunities that Rice students can partake in. From delivering meals to donating blood, volunteering is an enriching way to fill our time, step away from studying and get involved in the communities around us.

The Betty and Jacob Friedman Holistic Garden

If hands-on work appeals to you, a convenient and meaningful way to get involved on campus is to volunteer at Rice’s Holistic Garden, located next to Reckling Park. Some of the plants that you would work with will go back to the Rice community — produce from the Holistic Garden has been served at South servery. Garden volunteers have to be affiliated with Rice and can attend the sessions from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. No previous gardening experience is required; a short orientation is held at the beginning of your first volunteer session. 

Phone banking

Looking for a remote option? Phone banking is a great way to spread information about upcoming elections and voting literacy, all from the comfort of your own dorm room. Phone banking entails calling numbers of Texas community members and offering voting assistance on various topics, which are usually determined by the organization. The League of Women Voters, for example, hosts phone banking opportunities throughout the year to inform people about voter registration, local candidates and other topics. The Center for Common Ground focuses on voting efforts among underrepresented communities around Texas. The Center will host a short training session at an upcoming virtual event from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, so first-time phone bankers are especially welcome.

Rice student organizations

Several campus organizations mobilize Rice students to do continual service at Rice and beyond. Rice Student Volunteer Program organizes opportunities for Rice students to venture off campus and help out at various non-profit organizations. In a similar vein, the Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees connects Rice students to refugee youth in afterschool meetings throughout the semester. Best Buddies, another student organization, matches Rice students to adults with intellectual disabilities for one-on-one support, friendship and outreach. 

Meals on Wheels

5601 S. Braeswood, Houston, TX 77096-3907

Students with cars can deliver meals to homebound senior citizens and disabled adults through Meals on Wheels, an organization hosted locally by the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, which is a 15-minute drive from campus. Drivers pick up meals from the ERJCC and deliver them to 10-15 seniors in the area during 1-2 hour shifts. Mask wearing and a health screening form are required prior to arrival. On their SignUpGenius, there are open slots available until April.

Blood donation

At the Texas Medical Center, blood is always in demand. Blood donations can be made at numerous locations, all within quick walking distance from campus. Houston Methodist is open for appointments only from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. According to their website, one donation can save up to three lives. MD Anderson’s Holly Hall Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both weekdays and weekends, by appointment only. It is a short drive from campus, and parking is free.

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