Honors Club Spotlight: Bubble City Community Project

Olivia GuthrieUncategorized

Bubble City Community (BCC) is an outstanding service and volunteering club in the Honors College repertoire. BCC is a student-led service organization focused on helping the Miami homeless community.

The club was created in 2021 during the COVID-19 spikes to assist the Overtown community. They primarily held trash clean-ups and distributed fruits and water bottles to people experiencing homelessness.

Maya Rylke-Friedman was appointed president in August 2022 and has held the position since. She started the peanut butter and jelly initiative, which is what the club is known for today.

“I wanted something tangible to hand out,” said Maya.

Every other Friday, members of Bubble City meet up to make PBnJ sandwiches. Volunteers come together in Parkview Hall, the honors dorm, and make goodie bags to pass out. The food is put into a paper bag with a handwritten note from the volunteers, words of encouragement and kindness, and any extra snacks they may have. Saturday, the next day, they meet outside the Graham Center and carpool together to Overtown, where they pass out the sandwiches along with water and snacks. Any leftover sandwiches are put inside the Overtown community fridge.

BCC was made part of the Honors organizations under Maya’s leadership. She had personal connections to the honors college. So when a mistake jeopardized it from being an RSO (registered student organization) club and allowed to function at FIU, she ran to the staff she knew. Together, they were able to keep Bubble City alive.

The honors college requires service hours, and the college already had service-centered organizations, so it made sense. It gave the club flexibility and access to Parkview and has given them more opportunities, resources, and the ability to grow.

“It fits into the motto and message Honors holds, that Honors has,” said Maya.

The impact the club has in the city of Miami, as well as here in Panther territory, is substantial. Maya has seen a steady growth in the number of people who show up, and BBC has started making a name for itself on FIU’s campus.

At first, it was small—under ten people, including the board members—and they could make 100 sandwiches on a good day. With the traction they have gained through social media, Panther Connect, and word of mouth, they garner many more volunteers and can make upwards of 300 sandwiches each meeting, thousands over the past months.

“I am proud of the turnout we create… Sometimes there are too many people”, she laughed. “A happy problem. It is nice to have this impact on FIU. People know about us and want to help.”

The entire club is donation-based. Students and volunteers can donate items they need, like jelly or plastic bags used to hold the sandwiches, and in turn, they are given hours towards honors requirements in coordination with how many items they provide.

“We are reliant on them. If they bring those donations, that determines how many sandwiches they make,” said Maya.

Luckily, people have been ample givers. Their peanut butter stash could rival grocery stores. Joining the club’s Whatsapp group chat is the best way to be updated on what items they need and all activity times, locations, and changes.

The club leaves a donation box in Parkview East’s lobby, where residents and community members can donate extra non-perishable groceries or toiletry supplies to be given to those in need.

“Our mission is to help the homeless in any way we can; even though we aren’t fixing the problem, we are adding our impact.”

Maya has always been guided by a need to help others. She is a Jewish-American woman, and a practice from the Jewish Religion she says gears her life is the concept of sadaka, giving back. Good deeds.

“I remember being taught in Hebrew School no matter where you are in life, even if it’s giving a penny, you are still doing that mitzvah. You are still performing sadaka.”

She is graduating this semester with a degree in social work. She loves service and volunteering and wants to make this her life’s work. On a personal level, the club has come to mean so much to her. In this past season of her life, while she was going through individual challenges, Bubble City and its events were something she looked forward to and was an anchor for her.

“When you see people in different situations than you, you become more thankful,” she said.

She wants the club to continue strong past her residency and encourages anyone interested in giving back to it.

“I just want Bubble City to be remembered and to keep being this club, where it’s kind of like the staple service honors club… engaging the student community to think about being a volunteer and being of service.”