UHD's Gators Committed to Community Service
University Family Helping Each Other During Pandemic
By Mike Emery
March is officially the month for helping others. It’s not only Social Work Month, but March 13 was National Good Samaritan Day. Both occasions celebrate those selfless professionals and citizens who support their communities.
Helping others, however, is an everyday activity for the University of Houston-Downtown’s Gator Community. In recent weeks, students, faculty and staff have been particularly active in lending a hand to those need.
The most recent example of Gators’ commitment to community engagement was during the recent Food Fair on campus. Thanks to a partnership with the Houston Food Bank (HFB), UHD provided groceries to members of the University Community. This drive-through event was staffed by Gator volunteers, including Dr. Elizabeth Gilmore, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice.
She recognizes that many at the University are experiencing hardships (particularly food insecurity) due to the pandemic and are still recovering from last month’s freeze. Volunteering at this event, she said, is the least she can do.
“I am so grateful to be employed by a University that recognizes this and steps up to help those in need,” Gilmore said. “We have students struggling with gaining access to food, especially in the midst of a pandemic where jobs are fluctuating and just a short time after the freeze. I believe that this drive is proof that UHD and the team at Student Activities want to begin the conversation about the food crisis affecting our city and help our students in every way that they can.”
The recent event was the latest initiative to help Gators. A previous Food Fair was conducted earlier this spring, and each day, the University’s Food for Change Market provides all students with groceries. All of these efforts are made possible by partnership with the Houston Food Bank.
“We’re trying to give back to the community to help our students, faculty and staff,” said Mahalia Ogude, a senior Chemistry major who works in the market. “This is helpful for students because instead of focusing on if they can afford food, they’re able to get free groceries so they can succeed in their studies. That’s what we do in the Food Market, Student Activities and at UHD. We support the students.”
But Gator aid extends beyond campus as demonstrated by Social Work faculty and students’ participation in a food drive to help Houston’s immigrants and refugees. A recent food drive at Houston’s Casa Juan Diego was supported by Dr. Dawn McCarty, Professor and Director of the Social Work Program and Assistant Professor Dr. Liza Barros Lane. Likewise, students Mireya Morales and Diana Barrios were on hand to distribute groceries.
Some members of the UHD Community, however, take it upon themselves to do their part to help others even without an organized event such as those mentioned. Case in point, longtime staffer (and Gator alumna) Debora Evans, Manager of Shipping, Receiving & Mailroom. She sprung into action immediately during last month’s freeze and began delivering water to Gators in need.
Evans is no stranger to helping others. At the onset of the pandemic, she provided handmade masks for UHD Community members. She also volunteers regularly at various University events. She said that helping others is critical, especially now. And while she braved icy roads to take supplies to her fellow Gators, Evans said that others can do their part by simply reaching out to their friends and making sure they are okay.
“It's important that we come together every day, not just during an emergency,” Evans said. “We all need to check on each other. We all know someone who needs help and or just a kind word of encouragement. Or, they just need to hear someone call and say ‘I am here for you. We will get through this together.’”
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.