When people unite to help others great things can happen – and that was true for two UTMB students who took volunteering to a new level.

The students, Jessica Tedford, current Student Government Association president and Justin Drake, SGA’s Senate chair, set their sights on revamping the UTMB United to Serve volunteer initiative and as a result eight new volunteer opportunities were added to the existing two initiatives -  Campus Beautification and Beach Clean Up.  
"This year was a great opportunity to reach out to the Galveston community in a new and very big way. We saw this resource in our classmates and faculty, and we really wanted to extend a sincere thank you to a community that opens itself up to new students every year,” said Tedford and Drake. “We decided to express this gratitude through the standing United to Serve initiative and modeled our event after experiences we had in college with a project called The Big Event."
United to Serve is a UT System wide volunteer initiative, initiated in 2004 by the University of Texas System Student Advisory Council involving UT System students, administrators, faculty and staff in an effort to engage and mobilize thousands of volunteers in the 15-plus communities where we are located. Held in conjunction with National Volunteer Week, United to Serve enables each UT System institution to plan, partner with a non-profit organization, and initiate a volunteer initiative based on their preference and the needs of their community. The key is to organize projects that will allow students, administrators, faculty and staff to serve their community, together, in the greatest way possible.
More than 80 students and 9 faculty volunteered in this year’s United to Serve initiative offering their help to Ronald McDonald House, Galveston County Food Bank, Resource and Crisis Center of Galveston, Galveston Humane Society, St. Vincent's House, The Children's Center, The Salvation Army and the City of Galveston.
“Thanks to the volunteers from UTMB who helped sort a total of 5,410 pounds of food - 2,430 pounds of frozen food and 2,980 pounds of dry food.  According to Feeding America this will provide enough food for 4,508 meals,” said Jeff Gordon, Galveston County Food Bank business operations manager.
“The UTMB volunteers also assisted in the Client Choice Food Mart providing services to 16 visiting families. Because of the support from UTMB, the Food Banks mission of providing access to nutritional food to the economically disadvantaged in Galveston County is made possible. Thanks to all who volunteered and offered their support,” Gordon said.
Volunteers participated in a multitude of ways including taking care of animals, washing floors, cleaning patio furniture, beach clean-up and campus beautification.
"I worked at the Galveston County events for their Biggest Loser weigh in and Education Fest 2013. It was great to mingle with other local volunteers, meet the mayor of Galveston, and interact with members from the Galveston Chamber of Commerce. I'll definitely continue to support SGA's United to Serve,” said Jordan Brewer, UTMB SOM student.