Behind STRIPES as it creates community for volunteer members

STRIPES is a student-run organization offering free rides home every weekend for any MU student.

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It’s 9:45 p.m. in the STRIPES house. A group of student volunteers in matching orange shirts crowd around a TV, cheering each other on in an intense game of Mario Kart, free food in hand. As the clock hits 10, phones begin to field calls from students asking for rides home. Depending on the night, calls can start coming in as early as 10:01 or as late as 11. The moment the phone rings, one of the three volunteers manning phones picks up, gathering information about the caller’s name, location and address of where they’ll be dropped off. At the same time, a car is randomly selected to pick them up and a team of two students head out the door.

STRIPES, Supportive Tigers Riding In Pursuit of Ensuring Safety, is a ride service offered to MU students by MU students, giving free, safe and confidential rides home to any student with a valid MU ID between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. However, volunteer Parker Owens said, for those who take the calls and drive the cars, it’s more than that.

“It's a community,” Owens said. “STRIPES to people who aren’t in stripes [is] like, ‘Oh, yeah, that's the thing we go get rides from that we really appreciate’ and things like that. But if you're in STRIPES, it's a community. It's a friendship hub. You make memories there. You only have to work a few nights [per] semester, but oftentimes, you'll have people fighting for [spots] who [are] like, ‘Can I please have this night tonight? I want to see all my friends and I want to help the MU community.’”

Volunteers help the MU community by not only acting as designated drivers for students out at bars or parties but also for those spending long nights studying in the library who don’t feel comfortable walking home late at night. For team leader Hannah Bond, this is part of what makes STRIPES so important.

“Just giving a ride from the Hearnes to your dorm or from a dorm to a dorm, the safe aspect of it, I think that’s so important in the world we live in today,” Bond said. “And I’m so glad I’m able to be part of something, giving a student peace of mind knowing they’re getting home safely.”

Media coordinator Allyson Vasilopulos said rides offer water bottles, condoms, lube and even trash bags for those who may need them to patrons, as well as friendly volunteers to pick them up.

“[Students] can always expect that their ride will be completely confidential,” Vasilopulos said. “That's something that we're very proud of, that confidentiality. They can expect a fun time, too, great conversation. Our volunteers are incredibly nice people. And they're always telling jokes and making people laugh.”

This sense of fun creates the community Owens is so fond of in STRIPES, creating a family within the volunteers in the STRIPES house.

“It's a great way to get involved,” Vasilopulos said. “All of our members...are amazing. It's a great group of friends. I love my STRIPES people, like we hang out so much in STRIPES and then also outside of STRIPES, too; they’re some of my best friends. It's just an amazing organization inside and out.”

STRIPES accepts applications for volunteers once a semester for students interested in joining. The number to call for a ride home any Thursday, Friday or Saturday after 10 p.m. is (573) 442-9672 and can be found on the back of any MU ID.

Edited by Alexandra Sharp | asharp@themaneater.com

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