Christine VuStaff Writer
Parthasarathy S.K.Staff Photographer
Dallas Arboretum, Texas Tree Foundation and Goodwill among partners
More than 450 students volunteered for agencies, including the Dallas Arboretum, Goodwill and the Texas Tree Foundation as part of Viva Volunteer on Oct. 25.
The annual event hosted by the Office of Student Volunteerism, or OSV, celebrates National Make a Difference Day, the largest day of community service in the United States.
“It is a giant team effort … we all work together to put on Viva Volunteer,” said Tiffany Peart, program coordinator for Viva Volunteer. “It is incredible to introduce service to students when they first get to the university. Viva is the commutation of so many different service opportunities.”
This year, while working in conjunction with the Texas Tree Foundation, students planted 27 new trees in front of the Jindal School of Management. Without working closely with both student and local organizations, beautifying the UTD campus would not be possible, said Thea Junt, energy conservation and sustainability manager.
“Service matters because it is weaving a web of connections and coming together to make a difference,” she said.
The OSV provided transportation, breakfast and lunch to all Viva volunteers, as well as a T-shirt.
“It’s really an incredible and meaningful experience to spend your morning serving an agency … to build that camaraderie,” Peart said. “That’s what Viva’s about — making a difference.”
Registration for Viva Volunteer opens up every summer for student organizations. For students who are not affiliated with an organization, registration opens up in the fall. This year’s fall registration filled up within 24 hours, the quickest in the event’s history.
The event began at 8 a.m. Students picked up their T-shirt at the sign-in table before boarding their bus to go to their assigned service sites at 9 a.m. Some volunteers sorted donated goods while others helped rescued animals; the wide variety of tasks all benefited local organizations within the community. UT-PACT students made activity books for children in foster care.
“It is a fun way to unwind, share stories and swap pictures, and talk about the impact they’ve made,” Peart said.
This year, Director of Community Engagement Raul Hinojosa led a group of students at the Richardson Family YMCA to organize baseball storage units and swimming-pool supplies and wipe down athletic equipment.
“Some of the Viva memories I have are really memorable,” Hinojosa said. “It is just a few hours of time that we give up, but they’re memories I’ll hold onto for a long time. To wake up early seems like a chore, but when you get to doing it … it is really fulfilling and you see the impact.”
Viva Volunteer gives students the opportunity to explore their areas of interest and build a network with community organizations, Hinojosa said. The event is also a chance to meet other people who want to make a difference in their community, he said.
“All of the work that we did today in two hours … they told us would take a month to do,” Hinojosa said. “This high impact service gives us the chance to do something meaningful, and for them, it saves them money and time to get organize and stay focused on their mission. We know that the nonprofit services that we serve don’t have a lot of resources, so they count on volunteer services like ours to help them with their daily business.”