• UO Community Cares: Helping Houston with Najee Jenkins-Smith

    This week, to highlight the community leaders in our Houston stores, we spoke to UO's Women's Department manager Najee Jenkins-Smith to learn more about the spirit of the city and find out what we can do to help in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

    Show your support for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey with these t-shirts from our exclusive UO Community Cares collection benefiting the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. (There's also a UO Community Cares Pet Bandana that benefits Houston Humane Society, so you can help out all our four-legged friends, too!). Started by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, the Fund will provide much-needed relief services for those affected by the recent floods. The fund is housed at the Greater Houston Community Foundation. Donate directly here.

    Above: Najee at the Houston Food Bank

    Tell us a little about who you are and what you do at UO.
    My name is Najee Jenkins-Smith and I am the Women's Department manager at the Houston Galleria and Social Media Coordinator for @UOHouston.

    How did you get involved with volunteering?
    I got involved with volunteering heavily in high school. I was the captain of my high school step team, Westfield D.U.K.E.S., in Houston, TX which was community service based. From there, my commitment to helping others continued in college as I was many executive officer positions of student based organizations such as The Exceptional Men of the Talented Tenth, INC., NAACP, Men of Honor, etc. Every organization common factor was that we wanted to help someone else. 

    Above: "This past weekend we got all store teams in the Houston area to come together to do volunteering at the Houston Food Bank. The Houston Food Bank is the nation's #1 Food Bank pumping out millions of meals a year!"

    Can you share a quick list of organizations or shelters where people can donate?
    Narrowing down who or where to donate is one of the most challenging parts... my advice is donate locally! While national organizations are commendable for what they do on a large scale, our local organizations are who will be here to help rehabilitate our home far after the national organizations are "needed."

    Here's a few local organization I have either come across, worked with or trust: 
    -Mayor Sylvester Hurricane Relief Fund 
    -Houston Food Bank
    -New Perspective Development
    -Hive Society
    -Houston Humane Society
    -United Way of Greater Houston

    But remember, there are tons of Houston-based organizations who need our support on building our city up!

    Above: Gathering donations in Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey

    Are there any inspiring stories you can share from your time volunteering?
    Each time I've volunteered has been different from the last. That's the beauty behind it! One common goal each time but a million different ways to achieve it. I'll share an event experience that was very inspiring. On Monday, I volunteered to help Red Cross despite all the backlash the organization receives. It was Houston's largest evacuation area and I figured they needed the most help. I walked in just "another" volunteer, but walked out as the leader of 10 newly input operations to help the overall flow of things with teams all around the convention center. Each time I told people to "feel empowered to lead a task too." It felt good to make it easier on everyone by stepping up to the plate and doing what needs to be done. 

    Above: Just some of the UO Team at Houston Food Bank

    Can you tell us a little about why you love Houston and what it means to you?
    Although I was born in California, I've grown to love the city of Houston more and more over time. I think my heart jumped out of my chest the last week being here... I was in awe. It was initially due to the devastating circumstances and outcome of the flooding around me. 

    Watching people lose their homes, cars, families and hope in the same city as myself was by far one of the hardest things ever, but I was more in awe by the people in this city. The amount of love, support, generosity and passion the people have for one another is unbelievable, unmatched and inspiring. It's something about the southern hospitality that is sacred in Houston and definitely a perk of living here. The unity that was brought to attention throughout this time is why I'm proud to be a Houstonian! 

    Show your support for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey with these t-shirts and pet bandana from our exclusive UO Community Cares collection benefiting the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund or the Houston Humane Society