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Thousands of volunteers help make the Super Bowl a reality

HOUSTON -- When it comes to hosting the NFL's biggest game, this isn't Houston's first rodeo. Nonetheless, it still takes a big team of behind the scenes help to make it happen.

More than 31,000 volunteers submitted applications to help out during Super Bowl LI and of the 10,000 selected many come from right here in Houston. Some volunteers, however, traveled from other countries and states to have a hand in the week of celebrations.

Bonnie Waters and Beth Gray first volunteered at Super Bowl XLVI in their home state of Indiana in 2012. The two women haven't missed the opportunity to help out at a Super Bowl since.

Their group expanded to five members as their friends Penny Buhr, Sara Benken, and Tammy Woolems joined for their trip from Indiana to Houston.

"It's the opportunity to see cities we've never seen before and volunteer in the area," Waters said.

The five women are staying with a family they met during the interview process back in August when interviewer Tom LaHouse overheard them saying they would need a place to stay.

LaHouse, a first-time Super Bowl volunteer, has lived in Houston for nearly 40 years and offered the hospitality in hopes all volunteers would feel welcome to the city he considers home.

Coordinator of Volunteer Programs, Asiah Coleman said this kind of commitment has been present among many of the volunteers.

"Since back in February, when the application process began, we have had so many volunteers that have gone above and beyond," Coleman said.

Coleman joined the staff in 2014 and said that after two years of work with papers and spreadsheets, seeing the volunteers in action has been the most rewarding part of the process.

Coleman and her team created a waitlist in October due to the number of applications they received. She said they have continued to get emails throughout the week asking if there are still opportunities to get involved.

"We don't know when it's coming back to Houston and just seeing their passion and love for the city. It's just really nice," Coleman said.

After being hand selected through the interview process, volunteers undergo training to learn about Houston and their specific role for the week. Each volunteer must commit to a minimum of three shifts, each lasting six to eight hours beginning January 27 through game day on February 5.

Volunteering doesn't come with a ticket to the game, though. Coleman said they tell volunteers this early on and it's a way they can make sure the applicants are truly passionate about helping the city.

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