Students mark day by helping community - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Posted: Monday, January 21, 2013 9:23 pm

Hundreds of UTB-TSC students and community members joined together Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service to volunteer for organizations in Brownsville.

In one project, 13 students visited with some of the 104 residents at Ebony Lake Health Care Center, said Janie Gaytan, activities director at the home.

Eréndira Santillana, a freshman at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost Col-lege, kept busy by painting nails at the nursing home.

“I like it because it’s red. My hand looks pretty,” 73-year-old Severa Rodriguez said as she examined her bright-red fingernails while they dried.

Twenty-year-old Julie Urquieta, who gave Rodriguez her manicure, said she’s always wanted to volun-teer but never knew where to start. The day of service gave her the opportunity to begin.

“It’s fun; they have a lot of stories to tell,” Urquieta said of the senior citizens. For some Ebony Lake residents like Beatriz Dominguez, the added company meant time to talk about the world beyond the walls of the nursing home.

“I like to see people from outside,” the 82-year-old said. “They tell me what’s happening.”

Rodriguez said she has a steady stream of visitors, including two granddaughters in their 20s who try to visit every day.

But not all who live in the home are that lucky, Gaytan said.

“It helps them a lot,” she said. “Some of the residents don’t have family, but even those that do enjoy the company.”

Dolores Butron, 54, also had a manicure. Her nails were a deep red color, but with a distinctive white diagonal line across them.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve always liked having my nails done,” Butron said. When she was young, she said, she used to decorate her nails with different designs.

“She wanted a color that actually attracted attention,” said Santillana, an 18-year-old Spanish major.

Before the beauty session portion of the day, participants played games and even danced, Santillana said.

“I chose to volunteer at a home because I love listening to their anecdotes,” she said.

Other service projects included reading lessons for schoolchildren, beautification of community parks and gardening at area schools, said Heather Olague, coordinator of the University Scholars program on campus, which helped organize the event.

Between 650 and 700 volunteers showed up to help, said UTB-TSC student Blanca Rodriguez, a logis-tics committee leader who helped put together the day of service.

“We’re honoring what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for,” the 20-year-old said, “It’s not just MLK Day. It’s a national day for people all around the nation for people to help. We helped all over Brownsville trying to make tangible changes beautifying the community.”

Justin Torres, 18, and Pablo Herrera, 30, spent the morning painting signs at Brownsville/South Padre International Airport.

“It’s the first thing people see when they get to town; it should make a good first impression,” said Herrera, a member of the community.

A group of students spent their morning picking up care packages from community members to send to troops abroad.

“It’s a good way to give back to troops stationed overseas,” UTB-TSC student Rebecca Castillo said.

Because their bounty was few and far between, the group decided to put together some of their money and buy materials on their own.

“Because of the economy, not everyone can spend those extra bucks to help someone in need,” said Sonia Figueredo, 19.

“I think it’s just a good day for volunteering,” Figueredo said. “He (King) wanted to improve communi-ties as a whole. It might be little stuff, but as a whole, it makes the community better.”

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