Volunteered for a CHEITA event!


This last weekend I volunteered for a CHEITA event! CHEITA stands for Coalition of Hispanics for Excellence in International Technology and Arts. They are a really small non-profit (less than $25,000 per year), but they support the local community by providing scholarships for needy students. I found them through the Volunteer Houston website and worked with them through the HPE Gives program.

When I got to the location, it was empty. I signed up for the Friday night time-slot, so I knew it was up to me and whoever else volunteered to make sure that the festival was ready for the next day. I was surprised to find out that there were only two volunteers! Other than us, there were three hired contractors and 4-5 sponsors. It was insane, but we eventually managed to set up dozens of tents, banners, lights, decorations, security fences, and more.


It was a great experience. Other than the personal fulfillment coming from helping a community, I also got a great workout, learned how to use a scissor lift, and gained some perspective. I got the workout from running all over the place setting up materials (27,000 steps that day!). I got the scissor lift experience from a fellow volunteer while hanging some last minute banners. And finally, I got some perspective from working with convicted felons.


During the five hours that I spend volunteering, I found out that a couple of the contractors had just come out of prison. I was wary at first, but after spending a couple hours with them I realized that they were just happy to be able to work. They weren’t volunteering, they were being paid by an event organizer, but it was obvious to me that they were aiming to earn their keep. Their work ethic and enthusiasm made the entire session much more enjoyable. By the end of the night, I had gained a lot of respect for all of them. When we finished setting everything up, I even drove them home. They were planning to spend two hours walking ! Through my conversations with them, I re-learned how to appreciate where I am today. I had recently been stressing out over how to improve myself, but that night I was able to take a step back to remember that I have a good job with a great company, and am able to afford everything I need. It’s not even that long ago where I was sharing a room in a house of 6-7 people! I still remember what one of the contractor’s said: “Wow, you work for a Fortune 500 company!”


Overall we spent about five hours to get everything set up. I arrived at around 6:30pm, worked until 11:30pm, and didn’t get home until 12:15am. The next day, I attended the festival to see the fruits of our labor. The tacos were not bad!


Volunteered for the Halo House 5k event!


This last weekend I volunteered for a Halo House Foundation event. I found the event through the Volunteer Houston website, and was able to match it onto the HPE Gives program. This foundation is great for the community, because it helps provide temporary housing for leukemia patients while they receive treatment. Volunteering for the event was not only fulfilling, but fun!


When I first arrived at the event, I was really confused at first. Google Maps told me to go to the “Sabine Promenade,” which was supposed to be at 150 Sabine, but the area was empty of people. I arrived at around 5:45am and spent like 15 minutes looking for the correct place. I wasn’t the only person lost, I actually found a runner in the area trying to find the correct spot. We eventually found our way to parking lot H, where the real event was.


After I signed in and put on my shirt, I started working right away. I set up a tumbler distribution table for the participants, and then walked to the street with another volunteer to set up the traffic signals. After we set up some slow signs and cones, we got onto a truck to set up the actual 5k running lines. This is where things got interesting.


Do you know how cones get set up for a 5k/10k run? It’s pretty simple actually. Two or more people sit on the back a truck and place the cones on the ground while the truck moves forward. In this case, I was the guy on the back placing the cones on the street. It was a pretty interesting experience. I actually became quite good at placing cones after dropping a couple. The only thing that worried me was the creaking of the chair that I was sitting on, but I checked the bolts and everything beforehand and found them to be secure.


At around 7:45am all the cones had been placed and we started to see our first runners. I sat with some volunteers until they finished and then we began the process of cone collection. Guess how we collected the cones? Yup, I was at the back of the trucking picking up each cone while leaning on a moving truck. It was actually pretty good exercise, my core muscles were kind of sore afterwards.


After we got back to the main area we waited until the participants started leaving, and then we cleaned the area up. We loaded all of the important gear onto a truck and threw away the trash. I met some members of the iRun team (the people who organize these events), and felt pretty accomplished afterwards. We completed everything at around 10am, which was perfect for my schedule!