Yet when Jerry Evans, co-founder of the volunteer organization Cougars for Kids, recruited 200 members of his team to pitch in at the point of distribution site set up at UH after the storm hit, he wasn't trying to be heroic. He was operating instinctively.
After all, maintaining business as usual is what his organization is all about.
Cougars for Kids helps the youngest members of the Houston community retain some semblance of normality during times of stress and struggle. The UH students, faculty members and alumni work alongside volunteer staffers at various Texas Medical Center institutions to help young patients stay on top of their schoolwork and in good spirits.
"As an alumnus of the University of Houston, I was truly touched by and proud of the prompt response of our Cougars for Kids volunteers to fill the need for this relief effort. The whole UH community has a vested interest in playing a major service role in our larger Houston community," said Evans, an instructional assistant professor at UH's College of Technology.
The Dynamo have planned programming at three home matches to help residents of the region recover from Hurricane Ike. On Sunday, at its contest with D.C. United at Robertson Stadium, local emergency workers like Evans will be recognized, and monetary donations and soccer equipment for local clubs will be collected. Similar programming is planned for the games on Oct. 15 and Oct. 18.
"It is our hope that by helping kids to return to the soccer fields, we can play a part in bringing things back to normal and adding something positive to those most negatively affected," Dynamo Chief Operating Officer Chris Canetti said, underscoring the importance of recapturing the routine.
Meanwhile, Evans and his crew are already back to their labor of love, and they could use a few more sharp volunteers in their ranks to help with a new initiative: tutoring patients undergoing dialysis at Texas Children's Hospital.
Evans' wife, Gil, explains that the time demands of dialysis can set students back in their studies by years, and the hours spent "hooked up" to the machines often can be lonely.
"These kids fall through the cracks because no one is available to help them with their studies," she said. "Some are not even accompanied to the hospital by anyone."
The patients, many of whom are awaiting kidney transplants and come from surrounding and often remote areas, range in age from 3 to 19 years old. Some simply need academic assistance, such as reading comprehension guidance, she said, while others need life-skills training.
Volunteers who are bilingual or who know American Sign Language are in great demand, she said.
"I have always felt that giving back to the community you live in is a part of having a complete education," Jerry Evans said. "Cougars for Kids gives our students, faculty and alumni an organized vehicle to be able to be of service in small and big ways. The response to this organization since starting it last fall has been nothing short of phenomenal."
The Cougars for Kids program is open to anyone in the UH System community. Orientation sessions at the hospitals are ongoing, and volunteers can select the hospitals, choose the types of volunteer work they would like to do, and request flexible schedules that best suit their needs.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 36,000 students.
About the College of Technology
The College of Technology educates leaders in innovation and global industry. With nearly 2,000 students, the college offers accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees in construction management technology, consumer science and merchandising, computer engineering technology, electrical power technology, logistics technology, network communications, human resources development and technology project management. It also offers specialized programs in biotechnology, surveying and mapping and digital media.
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