- Community Assistance
- Road & Bridge
- Capital Improvements
- Parks & Recreation
Holiday Gifts and Parties
Precinct 4’s Mangum-Howell Center hosts annual holiday parties for at-risk children and children in need, complete with holiday craft projects, refreshments, visits with Santa, and more. Through a $20 donation, the SNAPP (Students Needing a Pat and Push) parties help spread holiday cheer to children in Aldine ISD elementary schools.
In addition to holiday parties, Mangum-Howell Center opens their doors to the community to enjoy the holiday sights, sounds, and delights direct from the North Pole during “Santa’s Workshop,” where families can enjoy beautiful decorations, a variety of interactive activties, and visit with Santa Claus.
Mangum-Howell Center also hosts a Holiday Food Drive to benefit those in need during the holidays.
School Supplies Drive
The Back to School Drive at Mangum-Howell Center provides children and families in need with necessary school supplies, which encourages local students to excel.
Seasonal Festivals, Fundraisers, and Special Programs
The nonprofit advisory council at Mangum-Howell Center is key to providing funds that support the many special events and programs offered annually, including the Mangum-Howell Festival and Bunny Hop Roundup.
Fun4Kids Summer Programs
Each June and July, Mangum-Howell Center offers interactive educational and recreational programs for area children. Everything from theater groups to magicians to crafts and games are offered during these weekly programs.
The volunteer coordinator matches the applicant’s interests and talents to exciting volunteer opportunities. New volunteers receive excellent job training, including tours of Mercer’s facilities and gardens. Refresher training sessions are also available for experienced volunteers.
Mercer offers job diversity. From digging in the dirt, to educating people, to working on the computer, there is something for everyone at Mercer. Become a garden assistant, trail guide, administrative assistant, financial specialist, collection curator, special event planner, or any of the over 25 different positions. Volunteers also enjoy flexible work hours and a range of commitment levels.
Mercer provides volunteer appreciation events during National Volunteer Week in April, an annual picnic the last Wednesday in October, field trips, ongoing training, and a subscription to The Leaflet, a quarterly e-newsletter highlighting gardening news and information.
All of the tours, field trips, programs, and festivals offered at Jones Park are free of charge. This is possible through community support and volunteers. To help expand and continue the level of free programming at Jones Park, experts, professionals, and teachers who specialize in natural science, conservation, and Texas history-related fields are invited to assist with or present lectures, tours, and workshops.
From behind-the-scenes assistance to tour guides, demonstrators, and historians at festivals, volunteers are utilized in almost every imaginable aspect of the park’s operations. Smaller groups interested in becoming involved at the park are encouraged to volunteer together.
Another important factor that allows Jones Park to offer free programming is monetary sponsorships through the Jesse Jones Park Volunteers (JJPV). Sponsors can support the park by funding theatrical, musical, and stage performances, contest awards and give-aways for the Volunteer Appreciation Party, Fishing Derby, Photo Contest, Tricks and Treats Among the Trees, and An Old-Fashioned Christmas.
Businesses, groups, and organizations that are interested in making visible, in-kind contributions can participate in the Adopt-A-Trail program, or other conservation projects.
Consider supporting Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center by volunteering!
Volunteer Job Descriptions
Remove invasive, non-native plants and conduct routine trail maintenance. This is a great conservation project for groups of all sizes and types. Requires a minimum one-year commitment of 4-hour work sessions every three months.
A large number of volunteers are utilized to successfully host our annual festivals and special events:
Arbor Day (January)
Homestead Heritage Day (February)
Summer Nature Camp (June through July)
Tricks & Treats (October)
Pioneer Day (November)
An Old-Fashioned Christmas (December).
Arts and Crafts Projects
Assist with craft preparations for children’s programs. Decorate for festivals. Create period-correct items offered for sale by the JJPV during Jones Park events. (Proceeds from sales benefit the park.) Can be performed in the Nature Center conference room or at home at your convenience.
Building Maintenance / Construction
Assist in the development and maintenance of park facilities, including the Redbud Hill Homestead and Akokisa Indian Village. Construction experience and handyman skills are a plus for maintaining pioneer structures.
Sew, mend, launder, and inventory period-correct garments used in re-enactments and stored in the costume closet. Research historical dress and accessories.
Work with concessions or indoor kitchen meal preparation at park festivals. Demonstrate cast iron outdoor cooking staged during homestead events.
Solicit donations from area businesses for park and volunteer programs. Research and write grant applications to support park projects.
Homestead Tour Guide
Lead school-aged children, scouts, and other groups on interpretive tours of the Redbud Hill Homestead and the Akokisa Indian Village. Homestead Tour Guides are needed Tuesday and Thursday mornings during the school year.
Assist with the care of landscaped grounds, homestead garden, and greenhouse by replanting areas of the park with native vegetation, seeding wildflowers, potting plants, watering, pruning, and weeding. Horticultural Aides are invited to participate in Conservation Connections every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
Jr. Canoe Training
Assist staff with teaching 10-15-year-olds water safety and canoeing skills. This program is a one-day commitment and is held periodically during the spring and summer months.
Living History Demonstrator
Demonstrate everyday life in an 1830s east Texas homestead or Akokisa Indian Village while wearing period-correct clothing (available in the costume closet) and using authentic tools. Volunteers demonstrate activities such as: archery, blacksmithing, cooking, gardening, hide tanning, woodworking, spinning, and weaving. Living History Demonstrators are needed for Second Saturday Settlers (SSS), Homestead Heritage Day, and Pioneer Day. No prior experience is necessary; just an interest in the life of Texas inhabitants in the 1830s. Training will be provided.
Nature Tour Guide
Lead school-aged children, scouts, or other groups on a one-half- to one-mile interpretive walk on the park’s nature trails. Point out interesting natural features such as the cypress ponds, native plants, birds, and animal signs. Nature Tour Guides are needed Tuesday and Thursday mornings during the school year.
Greet Nature Center visitors while providing them with park information, maps, and program schedules. Answer the phone and assist staff with craft preparation and record keeping. Office aides are needed primarily on weekends.
Represent Jones Park at environmental, educational, and community fairs. Set up displays, distribute park information, answer questions, and help extend the reach of park staff. Outreach events are primarily on weekends.
Summer Nature Camp Counselor
Provide a friendly, helpful presence while the children to learn about nature. Supervise a group of 6-7 children (ages 5-6, 7-9, or 10-12 years old). Participate, help, and encourage the campers in activities, games, and crafts presented by the park ranger. Counselors are needed from June to the first week of August. Each camp is a one-week commitment.
When it comes to volunteering, 16-year-old Darian Paul chooses to follow her passions.
Since becoming a Mercer volunteer at 13, the teen has participated in volunteer projects that correspond to her interests in art, science, and gardening.
“I was always interested in science,” she said. “When I learned how cool butterflies were, I started doing more research and really educated myself about butterfly gardens.”
She came across multiple websites that offered information on butterflies and what they need to survive and ordered seed from Live Monarch to get her backyard butterfly garden started.
“For the past 2 to 3 years, I’ve been interested in monarch butterflies,” she said. “I started cultivating butterflies in my backyard. I probably raised about 40. I learned what grows best in our area and what attracts the butterflies.”
Then, two years ago, she learned about a project between Harris County Precinct 4 and the Spring Creek Education Society to plant milkweed along the Spring Creek Greenway. With her own milkweed garden thriving, Darian was excited to assist with the plantings and share information she had learned while growing her own milkweed.
More recently, Darian has become more involved at Mercer as a face painter.
“In the seventh grade, I started volunteering at my school as part of National Junior Honor Society,” she said. “My school put me in a face painting booth and, at the time, I had never face painted before.”
They gave her watercolors and a book of shapes she could paint. When the pictures didn’t turn out as well as she liked, the teen started researching ways to improve her skills. She purchased new paint that stuck to the skin better than watercolors and educated herself by watching YouTube videos on face painting techniques.
By the time the next event rolled around, the teen was churning out more complicated designs, with her own unique flare. Recently, she had the opportunity to demonstrate her talent at Mercer’s Children’s Garden Grand Opening.
“Mercer is a great place to volunteer,” she said. “I love being outside and seeing all the different plants and animals. You also meet a lot of great people who are really interested in their field and are quite knowledgeable. If you don’t know much about a subject, they are eager to teach you.”
Before becoming a mother, Robyn Soileau considered her volunteer experiences as some of the most meaningful in her life. Now, she’s excited to share those experiences with her daughter, Camille.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping others,” said Soileau. “In the past, I worked as a pediatric physical therapist, where I helped children with special needs. Even in college, I was involved in community service groups. I’ve worked with T-ball teams, Meals on Wheels, Boys and Girls Clubs, Texas Children’s Hospital, and more. I’ve always enjoyed volunteering, but being able to work with my daughter was the main appeal of the National Charity League.”
Soileau is a member of the Grand Lilies chapter of the National Charity League (NCL), a nonprofit national organization of mothers and daughters committed to community service, leadership development, and cultural experiences.
“NCL is unique in that mothers serve alongside their daughters,” she said. “It is a way to pass on a love for giving back to the community and see each other in a new light.”
Led by President Lindsay Ardoin, the chapter is open to girls in seventh to 12th grades and their mothers. In addition to volunteer work in the community, the program emphasizes leadership and cultural growth. Mothers and daughters hold leadership positions, attend operas and musicals, and enjoy presentations from various speakers.
Since forming in April, the chapter has taken an active role in events at Mercer Botanic Gardens. The group accepted their first volunteer assignment at Mercer’s Tea in the Gardens and recently helped with Mercer’s Children’s Garden Grand Opening.
During that event, Soileau was proud to see her daughter in action.
“It was nice to see her donate her time for others,” she said. “I enjoyed just spending time with her, just the two of us, doing something new. It was great seeing her take charge of the seed planting booth and helping the children in a kind way.”
For more information, visit www.nationalcharityleague.org.
Traveling the world, exploring the city, or trying something new is all part of the curriculum for students at the Latin School of Chicago. Every year during Project Week, students leave the classrooms to perform a service project or pursue a topic of interest in locations from Iceland to Uruguay.
“The goal is to have students experience something they can’t experience in the classroom,” said Latin Student Life Director Timothy Cronister. “Some are back in Chicago doing yoga classes. Some are hiking along the west coast. Some are even traveling around the world. We have a group in Florence, Italy right now learning art history.”
This year, Cronister planned a bigger trip. After hearing about Hurricane Harvey on the news, he planned a service trip to Houston to help with relief efforts, including helping Mercer Botanic Gardens prepare for its grand reopening and March Mart Plant Sale.
“I haven’t led a trip in a couple of years, because, luckily, we haven’t had any major disasters,” he said.
“When Harvey hit, I talked with my family, and we decided it was time for me to do another trip.”
Cronister has a history of leading service trips to disaster zones. His students have worked in disaster areas such as Joplin, Missouri; Moore, Oklahoma; and Hurricane Katrina-affected areas.
“Usually some of the best kids sign up for these trips,” he said. “They could have been anywhere else, but they chose service and that says a lot.”
Jack Tempone, a 16-year-old junior, was one of the first to sign up.
“I was watching the news one day and there was a woman affected by Hurricane Harvey. I remember her saying, ‘Please help us. We have nothing,’” he said. “When I heard that, I started looking for ways I could become involved.”
Janice Akufo, a 17-year-old senior, said she signed up for her first service trip after hearing about needs faced by so many following the storm.
“It’s sad that two or three months later you stop hearing about the hurricane, even though people are still in need,” she said. “There’s still a lot more work that needs to be done.”
Mercer Volunteer Coordinator Jamie Hartwell said the timing couldn’t have been better when Cronister contacted her about volunteering.
Because of its location along Cypress Creek, Mercer was among the many areas that experienced severe flooding during the hurricane. The east side Botanic Gardens were closed nearly seven months while staff and volunteers worked to restore damaged areas. By the time the students arrived, Mercer was only days away from its grand reopening.
After touring Mercer’s storm-damaged areas, the students spent the day transporting plants for March Mart and working in Mercer’s pole barn. Many students said they were shocked after learning how high the creek rose.
“We were surprised to see how much damage was done by the hurricane. It’s one thing to hear about it on the news and another seeing it in person,” said Georgia Souleles, 16.
Others said they were impressed by the comradery among volunteers.
“I got to see firsthand how people can come together and make a positive change,” said Tempone.
Thanks to the outpouring of support from volunteers, such as the Latin School, Mercer Society President Maryanne Esser said Mercer has made a drastic transformation.
“It took hundreds of volunteers to organize our first major event since the hurricane,” said Esser.
“Despite losing months of growing time and most of our facilities, everyone managed to pull together and make this event a success. We hope to be at full capacity next year and offer even more wonderful plants at the 2019 March Mart.”
Mercer Botanic Gardens strives to match volunteers with their interests. When the Houston Zoo’s Collegiate Conservation Program contacted Mercer for a project this summer, they were tasked with removing several types of invasive plant species encroaching on the park’s conservation nursery border.
Since 2011, the group has partnered with organizations across the Houston area on conservation projects from restoring habitats to clearing fields. “During our summers, we strive to expose interns to a variety of conservation projects and organizations around the Houston area,” said Joanna Baptista, Houston Zoo adult programs coordinator. “We spend many of our days in the field working with different organizations removing invasive plant species, planting marsh grasses, and learning about the conservation work they do onsite.”
On average, students complete 20 to 25 one-day projects over the summer and spend 200 hours in the field. Over the past six years, the students cleared Chinese privet and Chinese tallow from Mercer’s natural Hickory Bog, removed spiny, exotic trifoliate orange plants from west side paths, and cleared new trails.
During their most recent project, students helped protect Mercer’s historical tree and rare plant conservation nursery from encroaching invasive plants. Mercer staff estimate the students saved them more than a week’s worth of time and helped protect the rare and endangered plant nursery from contamination. Students worked with Botanical Collections Curator Suzzanne Chapman to clear a 3- to 4-foot swath along a 100-yard fence, removing invasive trees, such as Chinese tallow and Chinese privet, and other plants nearing the nursery.
The conservation nursery houses rare native Texas plants, including the Neches River rose-mallow. Many of those plants are part of the National Collection of Endangered Plants. “Invasive species, along with vines and small trees, were crowding the fenced area that houses Mercer’s endangered plant stock, as well as the historic tree seedlings and plants for the Spring Creek Greenway,” said Chapman. “Clearing the area will prevent weeds in the nursery and allow better air circulation around potted specimens. Native plant populations can be crowded out by exotic invasive plants.”
While organizations across the region benefit from the work of students, Baptista is quick to point out how students benefit, too. “Many students join the program to figure out what they want to do for their future careers. Some learn they are more drawn to the conservation side. Several of our employees at the zoo started as interns. Many of our other interns go on to work for the organizations we partner with.” To volunteer for projects like this, contact Mercer’s volunteer coordinator at 713-274-4160.
While most people head to the grocery store or a local farmer’s market for produce, Mercer volunteer Chris Mihalik only has to walk outside.
“I grow and eat a lot of my own vegetables,” she said. “I don’t have to spend much time in the produce section at the grocery store.” Mihalik grows zucchini, pumpkin, basil, parsley, rosemary, cilantro, figs, oranges, plums, and more. She turns much of her unconsumed produce into preserves, baked goods, and jellies to share with friends, neighbors, and other Mercer volunteers.
Mihalik has always enjoyed gardening. Starting in 2014, she began volunteering in Mercer’s potting shed every Thursday and helping at the March Mart Plant Sale. Before becoming a volunteer, Mihalik visited Mercer regularly with her husband.
“When I retired, my husband asked, ‘Why don’t you volunteer at Mercer?’ We’ve always loved it there,” she said. “I spend time in the potting shed where I’m continuously learning new things about plants. I enjoy what I do , and the people I work with.”
Now, Mihalik applies gardening techniques used at Mercer in her own garden. She grows plants from her own garden cuttings and sells the excess plants at garage sales or gifts them to friends. Greenhouse manager Jacob Martin said many volunteers benefit from Mihalik’s garden.
“Chris loves to share the plants she propagates at home,” said Martin. “She is always bringing in tons of plumeria cuttings to share with other potting shed volunteers. She’s never shy of working outside, even when it feels like 100 degrees.”
One of Mihalik’s top tips for establishing a healthy vegetable garden is to use good compost. Mihalik composts her perishables and even collects compostable material from neighbors. In addition to helping the environment, Mihalik has seen results in her garden.
Last year, she threw an old pumpkin from a neighbor’s trash bin in her compost pile. By spring, she had four pumpkins. “Believe it or not, it grew from my compost bed,” she said. “It popped up in early spring, got flowers, and took over the whole bed. We just let it go. It grew up into the grass and wandered around a little bit.
“I made pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin bread. I gave everyone I knew pumpkin something.” It wasn’t the first time she’s grown something by accident. An old cantaloupe in her compost bin also sprouted. “You don’t have to work as hard with good soil,” she said.
Although enriched soil makes gardening easier, Mihalik has yet to find a shortcut for keeping her plants watered during the Houston summers. Despite the work, Mihalik believes the payoff is worth it.
“I love to watch things grow,” she said. “It’s exciting to watch a little sprout develop into a plant.”
By: Communications 0
It’s More Than a Two-Day Sale! Volunteer Opportunities start early!
In addition to the March Mart plant sale on March 20 and 21, there are several volunteer opportunities that begin in February and early March. Visit the March Mart page and fill out an application to see all the possibilities!
If you have any questions, contact Jamie Hartwell, Mercer’s volunteer coordinator, at 713-274-4160 or send an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. All volunteers must complete the March Mart volunteer application before participating.
Plant Preparation at Northside Greenhouses. Work with grower Brandon Hubbard to prepare plants for sale. Please sign up at least three days before the sale.
– Saturday, Feb. 22, from 9 a.m. to noon
– Saturday, Feb. 29, from 9 a.m. to noon
– Saturday, March 7, from 9 a.m. to noon
– Saturday, March 14, from 9 a.m. to noon
March Mart Plant Moving and Setup. Help move plants from the greenhouses to Mercer. Please sign up at least three days prior to the sale.
– Monday, March 16, from 9 a.m. to noon
– Tuesday, March 17, from 9 a.m. to noon
– Wednesday, March 18, from 9 a.m. to noon
– Thursday, March 19, from 9 a.m. to noon
March Mart VIP Party and Plant Sale, Thursday, March 19. Depending on your shift, you may help arrange and set tables, set out food and drinks, serve food, and clean up. Please sign up at least two weeks prior to the event.
– 9 a.m. to noon
– 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. (adults only)
– 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (adults only)
– 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (adults only)
March Mart Plant Sale, Friday, March 20. A variety of positions, including ticket-writers, wagon check-out, plant loading, hospitality, customer service, greeting, and more are available.
– 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (all day)
– 7:30 a.m. to noon (morning)
– Noon to 4:30 p.m. (afternoon)
– 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Set up for next day)
March Mart Plant Sale: Saturday, March 21. Positions include ticket-writers, wagon check-out, plant loading, hospitality, customer service, greeting, and more.
– 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (all day)
– 7:30 a.m. to noon (morning)
– Noon to 4:30 p.m. (afternoon)
– 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (sale breakdown)
Two-day plant sale hours:
– Friday, March 20, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. (The Mercer Society members) and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (general public)
– Saturday, March 21, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (general public)
* For questions about The Mercer Society, please call 713-274-4166 or email email@example.com.