Guest Post: Michelle. Oasis Center

I have known Jimmie for a while now and have been a big fan of her blog. I’m so excited for her and her challenge of writing 50,000 words this month. (Editor’s Note:  I am SO FAR behind.  I’m going to make it but no one is allowed to be mad at me if I don’t answer the phone when you call. I have to type my little fingers off to catch up.)  I have to say, I was honored to be included in the list of folks she asked to be guest bloggers. I have a baby blog (Oh, not a blog about babies, rather it’s only 2 months old). I write about my art (so if Jimmie wants to share the link, I’d love for you to check it out) (Editor’s Note:  Of course I do!  Studio B – she’s super talented.)  so it’s more visual than wordy. And I was humbled to find out that Jimmie likes my writing, which coming from her, someone who writes well and will have published books out there one day, means a lot! Yes, I said it, I believe Jimmie will be published in the near future and I already made her promise to sign copies of the books I purchase!  (Editor’s Note:  You see why I love her?)

Anyhow, since I’m new to blogging and I want to do her proud, I had some questions about length of the post and topic. She suggested I write about another one of my passions. I volunteer for the Oasis Center here in Nashville and I just passed my 2 year anniversary in September. If you’re not familiar with Oasis, we are an agency that serves youth in need in the area.

I have to backtrack a bit to tell you about how I came to volunteering and even what it is that I do. I work for a local University and one of my programs focuses on moral and ethical leadership in the professions. Part of my job is managing a group of Fellows made up of students from the professional schools on campus. To participate in the fellowship, the students work on a year- long interdisciplinary project using their areas of expertise and leadership skills to help a non-profit agency with whatever their particular need might be. For example, a few years ago, a group of Fellows worked with the Oasis Center to build a community garden and program around cooking with and eating fresh vegetables. It was quite a success and to my knowledge, the garden is still there and being used. At the time, I had not heard of the Oasis Center so one afternoon when I was there to deliver some books (part of the program included resource books) for their library, I had a chance to chat with one of the resident counselors about the work they do. Long story short, I decided that I wanted to volunteer with them. So, I turned in my application, waited for the back ground check, and then was able to meet with their fantastic volunteer coordinator (who incidentally is now a student in the school where I work).

At the time, I thought I wanted to work with the young folks who live in the Loft. These are formerly homeless youth who have the opportunity to get back on their feet while living in the Loft for up to 20 months. However, there weren’t any positions available at the time so it was suggested that I join the Street Outreach team. So, in September 2010, I began volunteering as an outreach person. And then, at the end of October, my dad suddenly passed away. For those of you who have lost someone dear to you, you can imagine how crazy that period of time is. I took off all of November from Outreach. I was so lost, but returning to Outreach provided moments of time when I could concentrate on something other than the pain of this loss. So when I went back out with my outreach partner in December, I was thankful that the small interactions with people was all that was required with me because I didn’t think I had it in my heart to try to build relationships with the youth living in the Loft at the time. Little did I know that I would still be building relationships no matter what I was doing.

Ok, so you might be wondering what is Street Outreach. Good question, cause I didn’t know either. It’s described on the website as a dedicated staff person and volunteer who pair up to walk the streets of downtown Nashville so homeless youth know there is a place for them to turn to for help. I’m not sure that description really captures the experience. So, I will try to paint you a picture.

My volunteer nights are the 1st and 3rd Friday of the month. I meet my partner at the center at 7:00pm (year round and I’ve been out in the rain, the snow and the heat cause homeless folks don’t get a day off for weather) and we pack 2 shopping bags a piece with socks, snacks, shirts (hoodies and blankets in the winter, water bottles in the summer) and then grab a back pack each before signing out (safety is a big priority) and heading downtown.

We have certain areas of downtown that we cover each week. We (carefully) approach folks and ask if they want a pair of socks. I have a confession to make. I’m not a fan of socks. I hate having my feet covered. In fact, even though it’s chilly right now, I don’t have any socks on. But I never realized how important they are to folks who are on their feet all day, who don’t have the opportunity to bathe regularly, who wear the same pair of shoes day in and out. One of the first times I was out, we came across a young man sitting at a bus bench with a suitcase. He was accompanied by a friend. I offered him a pair of socks and he burst into tears. The pair had just gotten into town, the young man had gotten away from a bad situation and the act of kindness from a stranger overwhelmed him. We were able to direct him to our facility (during the week they run a drop in service where youth can get a meal, a shower, clean clothes and some services if needed). I don’t know what ever happened to him or if he’s ever thought about that moment again, but I still remember him. That my tiny act of kindness made a difference in his life for a moment.

We don’t only hand out items to young folks. We give to anyone who needs. And that’s where some of those relationships are being built. Folks look out for youth and they let us know when new young people are in town or they direct them to our facility. It’s quite a community out there. And I’m proud to be a very small part of it.

(Editor’s Note:  There are so many organizations in Nashville for lending a helping hand.  I’ve wanted to feature other things here but only know what I do so I’m happy to have this information for you.  I’m sure that Michelle would also be happy to answer any questions on her favorites – check out her blog for an email addy.)

Cheers, Michelle


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. studiobukowski
    Nov 18, 2012 @ 15:49:18

    I’d love to answer any questions! Thanks again, Jimmie.


  2. Trackback: I love it when a plan comes together « Studio B

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