Volunteered for the Halo House 5k event!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Supporting the Epilepsy Foundation!

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Over the weekend I volunteered at the Houston Zoo to help the Epilepsy Foundation with their fundraising event. The Epilepsy Foundation is a great organization that provides free medical care and support to people with epilepsy. I found the event through the Hewlett-Packard community outreach program, and I’m glad that I was able to participate. Not only was I able to help the program run smoothly, but it was a fun learning experience overall. I went in with no expectations, and left very satisfied with the work I did. The event actually made me more willing to participate in future community service events!

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This was actually my first community service event through the HPE program, so I was already pretty excited beforehand. I woke up without a problem and arrived at the Houston Zoo at approximately 6:45 AM. When I arrived, there wasn’t that many people in the area. I found a table marked “for volunteers” that was completely un-manned, but pro-actively signed in and put on a volunteer t-shirt. After locating an on-site manager, I got assigned to work the registration desk. After about 30 seconds of training, I began registering people for the event.

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The registration tasks were pretty simple. I was given several booklets, and whenever a registered user would come, I would cross out their name. I also gave each registered user a zoo ticket and a colored wristband. Purple for people with epilepsy, silver for people without. I helped a couple hundred people register into the event that day and only made a couple mistakes, but those were due to insufficient training. I’m surprised how fast the time passed! You would think that manning a registration desk would be super boring, but interacting with so many people and providing customer service is something I haven’t done in years. It got really crazy between the hours of 7 and 8am, when people were rushing to make the event on time.

After the registration period ended, I headed over to the Zoo Pavilion area. There was a little bit of wait time here (people were still strolling), so I was able to walk around and look at the animals. The last time I came to this zoo, they were still building out the gorilla exhibit. I was excited to check it out this time, and through pure luck, they released the gorillas for feeding! I was inches away from young gorillas, who were eating food out of some feeders. It was my first time seeing gorillas so close! It’s hard to emphasize how excited I was, but I’m sure it shows in the picture.

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After my short break, I headed to the main after-party area to continue my volunteer work. I got assigned to the glitter tattoo station, which meant painting glitter tattoos on children. At first I was a bit wary, since I had zero experience with this kind of thing, but like my previous assignment I just went for it headfirst. My first kid wanted a glitter tattoo on her face, so I applied the stencil and painted. When I finished, I was relieved to see how happy she was with my work. It gave me the confidence I needed to tattoo dozens of additional children over the next couple hours. At the end of my shift we raised about $130, with each glitter tattoo costing $1. About half of those were done by yours truly. It felt pretty awesome to make so many children smile!

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By 11:30am the zoo was mostly free of event participants, so I said goodbye to my fellow volunteers and left. Overall it was a great experience, and I will definitely volunteer again next year if possible!