14:48 PM

Gators Give On MLK Day

GatorServe Assembles 130 Volunteers for Community Service


By Mike Emery

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day to reflect on the legacy of the late civil rights leader and his ongoing influence around the globe. It’s also a day to help others in need.

Like all state agencies, the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) was closed in observance of MLK Day. Approximately 130 Gators, however, spent their day engaged in community service.

Their volunteer activities were part of GatorServe. Coordinated by UHD’s Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning, GatorServe is a biannual event conducted on MLK Day and Sept. 11. It recruits volunteers from the UHD community, who participate in community clean-up projects and helping Houstonians in need.

During MLK Day 2019, GatorServe volunteers assisted senior residents in the nearby Fifth Ward community. Volunteers assembled at Bryce-Dorian Park for a quick breakfast and to receive assignments. At the park, they were greeted by one of UHD’s newest Gators, Dr. Eric Carl Link, senior vice president for academic & student affairs and provost.

“Today, you represent UHD and you embody the message of Dr. King,” he said. “The community appreciates your time and your efforts today. And our university is proud of your willingness to help others in honor of Martin Luther King.”

Among the seniors who received assistance was Alice “Tweed” Smith, who greeted Gators warmly at her front door.

“You can call me ‘Tweed,’” she said. “And, many of you might not remember this group, but I was the first female member of the band, War.”

Smith joined the popular band (known for hits "Lowrider" and "Why Can't We Be Friends?") in 1979 and appeared on several releases, including "The Music Band." During her time in War, she appeared with the group on television shows such as "American Bandstand" and "The Soupy Sales Show."

Smith then opened her door to Gator volunteers, who proceeded to help clean and organize her home. Other Gators, including student Jason Lillie, assisted in planting flowers for her.

“It’s important to give back and help others,” Lillie said. “It teaches solidarity between the community and the university. This is our city, so it’s good for all of us to learn from these experiences and meet others like Ms. Smith.”

KPRC Ch. 2 covered the volunteer effort, interviewing Smith and students Shay Tatum and Selena Garcia.

“My excitement today is about these lovely people doing a day of service and helping seniors,” she told the KPRC videographer. “What they are doing is more than just a blessing. It’s an enhancement to our lives.”

As volunteers wrapped up their work at Smith’s house, she assembled them in her front yard. Upon their arrival, the veteran singer promised a sample of her talents, and she delivered a verse from Whitney Houston’s “I Believe in You and Me.”

“I believe in dreams again,” she sang. “I believe in love that never ends and like the river finds the sea … I was lost, now I’m free … I believe in you, you and you … and me.”

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.