Packing the Pantry in Austin

Charis Wise | College Life, Volunteer

Last year, USLI held our first Pack the Pantry drive in an effort to fight food insecurity among college students. The goal was to collaborate with universities who have food pantries, and provide them with some food and hygiene items that they could distribute to their students.

The drive turned out to be a great event, and the Student Ambassadors were very excited to bring this initiative to our branch offices this year! I had the amazing opportunity to organize the Pack the Pantry drive here in our Austin, Texas office. Part of my role was to promote the drive, and it was exciting to get a bit creative with the decoration of the poster and the donation box.

In the end, we were able to collect 193 items to donate to Austin Community College! They were very excited and thankful that we were hosting a drive for their students, since 34 percent of them are food insecure. Not only is this a great cause, but also a great way to get involved and get to know some more of our community members! It was a very fun way to gather together to participate in such a terrific project.

This year Pack the Pantry collected 5,715 items across three states, which will be distributed to five different colleges and universities. Thank you for helping us pack the pantry!


  Written by: Daniela Gonzalez-Lores

Hoedown Showdown

Charis Wise | Volunteer

How many of us thought about being a cowboy or cowgirl as a kid? I for one can say I did, and with the theme for the 2018 Community Picnic being “Hoedown Showdown” we got to dress up the way we did when we were kids. There were many really fun games this year including a Wheelbarrow Race, a cow milking game (no real cows were involved), and Corn Hole. There was even a mechanical bull for the people who really wanted to embrace the rodeo experience. It looks like whether you’re College Help or full-time, you enjoy your games.

I was able to hang out and enjoy the games with both College Help students and community members who I don’t get to see every day. I really enjoyed competing against people in the cow milking game. I actually got to help run this game for an hour, and seeing College Help and Full-time community members all trying to fill their buckets and win helped me feel more a part of the USLI community. After working at USLI for two years, I feel like the positive energy, comradery, light hearted competitiveness, and smiling faces at the Community Picnic is a great representation of the USLI community as a whole.

There was also amazing food at the picnic! I could not stay away from the barbecued pulled pork and the cornbread. My only regret is that I didn’t get to try all the food. The day ended with some incredible line dancing and a friendly but tough best-dressed contest. Overall, I loved the 2018 Community Picnic theme, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the 2019 picnic.

Written by: Kylil Kee-Redmond

Learning the FUNdamentals at USLI

Charis Wise | Volunteer

Every year, USLI hosts Bring Your Child to Work Day, and this year’s theme was “FUNdamentals,” which encouraged the kids to learn more about how to become really great at something while making it a fun experience. This year, I had the pleasure of volunteering as a College Help student during the day and spending quality time with all the children. The event was well-organized and balanced between having fun and learning. The children learned about information technology, insurance, science and even the fundamentals of dance. Being able to see through the children’s eyes as they explored their parents’ workplace was really rewarding for me. I love spending time with kids because I learn to appreciate the little things in life. Sometimes, as “grown-ups,” we get so caught up in planning for the future or looking ahead to what’s next, that we forget to live our life in the moment. I don’t see a way that USLI’s Bring Your Child to Work Day could end in anything other a quiet ride home – I was exhausted and can imagine the kids fell asleep on their way home! Bill Keane said, “Today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.” Kids remind you to enjoy the moment, at that moment, and keep life simple. Participating in Bring Your Child to Work Day was a great experience, and one that I am absolutely looking forward to participating in again in the future!


Written by: Rob John