United Way helps millennials give back to the Borderland through RISE

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When Hollie Jacobson accepted the job of marketing and communications manager for United Way’s Rise program six months ago, she was so excited about the program’s mission of engaging millennials in community volunteer activities that she recruited her boyfriend, Saul Williams.

The 25-year-old intern for the CEO of the El Paso Children’s Hospital says he didn’t think twice.

“I was raised in El Paso and really care about the city so being able to give back to the community that helped mold me into the young man I am today is a great opportunity,” said Williams, who joined four months ago.

“The volunteer projects and speaker series are a great way to get involved as well as stay updated with the growth of El Paso,” he added.

The United Way’s extension program called RISE is a unique way for millennials to connect with the El Paso community through hands-on volunteer projects such as RISE for Hunger and informal hangouts. The program took off September 2017 when Stephanie Gorman was hired to run RISE.

“United Way started this affinity group when it saw a need for millennials who really wanted to give back to the El Paso community in a unique way. Our volunteer projects [help]some of our United Way partnered agencies,” said Gorman, whose title is Community Engagement Coordinator.

“So not only do millennials get to give back, they are also supporting some of the work United Way is doing.”

 Gorman works directly with RISE members and organizes all volunteer projects. She says RISE membership has grown from five to 60 members in the past five months.

“As RISE continues to gain momentum, we are really excited for the potential of this group. Being a part of RISE, you are not only sharing your passion, you are also helping United Way support families and children,” Gorman said.

RISE is consistently active and has events lined up for the rest of the year.

One of the events they recently held was the RISE Against Hunger event in February, where members served lunch at the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.

“We got to serve food for 60 homeless individuals in the El Paso community,” Jacobson said. “It was a great opportunity because you get to gain some perspective from just a few miles from where you live. We got to tour the facility, which was really great because you see where United Way’s help is going in the community.”

Jacobson, 22, said she and her boyfriend joined, “because we were looking for a way to meet people our age who have similar interests. It’s been a great experience being a part of RISE because we’ve really expanded our social group, but we’ve also gotten to get involved in the community.

“I’m not from El Paso originally, but [my boyfriend]is, so it’s been great for him to see a new side of his city and for me to explore different parts of a new city,’’ Jacobson added.

RISE strives to connect millennials to their communities and Gorman wants to provide environments in which that goal can be accomplished.

“My vision for RISE is to create volunteer experiences that cater to the millennial spirit. Sometimes there is a preconceived notion that millennials don’t want to be involved in their community, but I think our member base kind of proves that wrong,” Gorman said. “Millennials want to give back ­– especially young El Pasoans.”

If you are interested in becoming a RISE member, or participating in their next event, visit the RISE website at www.elpasorise.org or call Stephanie Gorman at 915-533-2434, ext. 228.

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