Project MOVE Makes Big Impact

By Victor Garcia

UTEP News Service

On March 9, a record-breaking 1,461 students, alumni, faculty and staff volunteered their time to help the El Paso community through Project MOVE. Now in its fourth year, Project MOVE (Miner Opportunities for Volunteer Experiences) provides opportunities for volunteers to spend a half-day helping community organizations with cleaning, maintenance, beautification and other service projects.

“This project was very much a success,” said Ryan Holmes, associate dean of students. “We had record numbers in just about every category.” Normally, the event attracts about 1,200 participants working at about 45 agencies, but this year volunteers lent a helping hand at 71 project sites.A UTEP student paints a fence during the Project MOVE community service day. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News ServiceA UTEP student paints a fence during the Project MOVE community service day. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

The city benefited from the UTEP community in various ways, from helping out the elderly, cleaning up dog shelters and painting at the YWCA, to name a few.

Before participants scattered to sites around the community, they gathered at a windy Glory Field for a snack, music, a pep talk, and to meet up with their work groups and liaisons.

At the Northeast YWCA Kastrin Early Learning Center, senior engineering major Ajay Verma of India was excited about his first time participating in Project MOVE. He said he had taken it easy on Friday so he would have plenty of energy for Saturday's activities.

Organizers said Project MOVE participants represented about 15 countries from around the world. Verma said he was proud to represent his home country as he helped paint the learning center at the YWCA.

“You don't get this experience in India,” he said.

Participants in this community-wide effort said being able to help local organizations was a reward in itself.

“Might as well have a good time doing this and help out El Paso – I get to help the dogs,” said Paul Dutchover, a media advertising major and member of the National Society of Leadership and Success. 

Dutchover and others worked at Great Dane Rescue of El Paso, a shelter for these unique dogs, which can grow to over three feet in height. The giant dogs seemed intimidating at first, but the volunteers quickly learned about the friendly personalities of the shelter's Great Danes, who mostly wanted someone to come up and pet them.  The volunteers swept and washed the kennels, filled holes in the dirt, trimmed bushes and collected trash. 

“By having them come out here and help us fix up the grounds where the dogs are allowed to go and play makes a better and safer environment for them,” said Luan Folkner, president of the board of directors of the Great Dane Rescue of El Paso.

Associate Dean Holmes said participants could have easily looked at March 9 as just another Saturday to do things for themselves.

However, “they chose not to,” he said. “They chose to go out to the community, they chose to report here first so that we could get the energy going, then they went out and they created a change and they made a difference.”

Project MOVE volunteers also made their way to the Sunridge at Cambria Assisted Living Community, a home for elderly residents. The students brightened their day by painting fencing and a parking lot area.

“We’re even talking about trying to come after this for an hour on the weekends,” said Alexandra Von Glahn, a linguistics major and president of the Residence Hall Association. The students were working mostly outside on a windy day but were nevertheless happy to get the job done.

“I just like helping people with whatever help I can offer them and help make the place a little better for the people who live here,” said Daniel Segura, an English-American literature major and member of the Residence Hall Association.

At the end of the day it was an outstanding effort by the UTEP community. Those who participated in the event hope that it continues to grow into the future.