By Rose Miller, Staff Reporter
This fall, the Organization for Acts of Social Involvement and Service (OASIS) joined the ranks of UMF’s many student organizations. With the group still in its infancy, members are beginning with smaller endeavors like volunteering at the animal shelter. However, leaders already have big aspirations for the club with hopes of one day participating in Habitats for Humanity and hosting their own community wide awareness walk. A relatively relaxed and informal group, president and founder Mitchell Walston explained that a special attention to social inclusivity sets OASIS apart from other service groups on campus.
Former VP & current club member Connor Lynch, secretary & treasurer Susan Gary, and Walston all have many ideas of what OASIS can do for the community. In addition to lending a hand at the animal shelter, the group plans to work with a disability organization called Life Enrichment Advancing People or LEAP. Volunteering at Franklin Memorial Hospital and assisted living communities is also a goal of the club.
Currently members are working on organizing a book drive to gather donations for the Mount Blue School District. “We’ll be starting that in the next couple of weeks,” said Walston. “We’ll be tabling in the student center.” He specified they’d be collecting elementary and middle school level books.
However, the book drive and the club’s other endeavors are hardly the only community service efforts undertaken by students at UMF. Walston and Lynch explained that service was only one part of their club and that a particular focus on “social involvement” is what sets OASIS apart from other service groups.
Both explained that they had sampled several different clubs last year as freshmen. “Not to take a shot at any of the clubs, but we felt a little unsatisfied or disappointed by what we saw at some of these meetings.” Walston stated, “The general feel or vibe I got from some of these clubs was that they were either unproductive, unorganized, and I hate to say it because we’re such a liberal university, but exclusive.”
“And really those were the three main ideas that pushed us to create a group that was based in volunteering, but was also looked at as a place for anyone and everyone to feel like we were being productive, to feel that we were organized and that we were extremely inclusive,” said Walston,.“That’s what we felt was missing and that’s what we wanted to bring to UMF.”
In addition to its special interest in social inclusivity, the OASIS members noted the club’s laid-back quality as an attractive feature to busy college students who want to be involved but have little spare time for rigid weekly commitments.
While the club is still small, with only a handful of actively participating members, Walston, Lynch and Gary all had something to say about future larger scale projects including eventually participating in Habitats for Humanity. Although the plans are very preliminary and the cause still unspecified, they also hope to host an awareness walk. “That’s kind of our goal towards the end of the year,” said Walston. “And get it publicized as much as possible so that not only the UMF community can be involved, but also the town of Farmington.”
Lynch spoke broadly of the club’s mission. “Our goal is basically to bring UMF students out and explore the community, and what they can do to help it,” said Lynch. “And possibly take those skills back to their own communities.”
Lynch noted that non-club members are always welcome to attend meetings or join the group trips to the animal shelter. Gary added, “We hope for people to just come to a meeting so they can see first-hand what we’re trying to get done and how involved people are,” she said, “because that’s the best way you can figure out if it’s for you or not.” Students interested in learning more can find the club on Facebook under the page title “The OASIS” or attend one of the groups meetings, held on Wednesdays at 6:00pm in the Education Center, room 113.