Students in Kathryn Swacha’s technical editing and document design class, which is offered through the University of Maine’s English department, have been working with a local household goods bank called Welcome to Housing that provides furniture and other household items to people in need. Welcome to Housing has been known to give furniture to a variety of people including individuals and families who immigrated to the U.S., people who were formerly incarcerated and have their own place, veterans, or those displaced by domestic violence or a household fire . Welcome To Housing (WTH) is an entirely volunteer-run organization located in Old Town and run by founder Chris Olsen.
Throughout the semester, students have been using the skills they learned in Swacha’s class like research, technical writing and editing and design skills to create newsletters and volunteer guides for WTH. These documents will only help the organization grow going forward, contributing to WTH’s ongoing efforts to increase its volunteer pool and destigmatize people seeking their services. Olsen has been grateful for the student’s help and feels it has benefited his non-profit greatly.
“In addition to the intelligence and enthusiasm the students have put into helping WTH, there is a level of compassion that makes it even stronger,” Olsen said in a press release. “The insight from this demographic also is a plus for WTH as we want to keep our program current and we want to reach the widest group of people possible and the work they have done will help us reach new generations of young people who enjoy ‘giving back’ to their community.”
Olsen also expressed that he enjoyed working with Swacha’s class throughout the semester and with UMaine students over the past decade. He finds that students often provide creative solutions to issues and are always a pleasure to work with.
“Professor Kathryn Swacha’s writing class has had and will continue to have a profound impact on Welcome To Housing and our organization’s growth and reach,” Olsen said. “We started with a handful of individuals in the autumn of 2011 and we’ve grown over the years to a point far beyond anything I could have envisioned. The biggest contributing factor is the support we get from the community. This writing class is a perfect example. Taking on several different angles to help WTH grow and raise awareness for the work we do and how important it is to people in need, the effect will be long lasting.”
Students also feel that their experience with WTH has been rewarding. Fourth-year English student Jillian Ramsey, a student in Swacha’s class and an intern with WTH, shares how this experience has impacted her.
“Interning with Welcome To Housing has been nothing shy of amazing,” Ramsey said. “Chris has only pushed me to be the best intern I could and for that, I will forever be grateful. This internship has helped me grow into the writer that I am today, and has given me the skills and knowledge of a real-life job. It has opened my eyes to a job position that I may want to apply for [and] take on one day. I have newfound social, writing and editing skills that I hope to use in my future, along with the pride I have acquired from working with such a wonderful organization.”
It is great to see UMaine students giving back to the community while furthering their education and helping a local organization. WTH is taking on another intern in the spring semester who will help continue the work students in this class began. To learn more about WTH, the services they provide, or ways to get involved, visit www.welcometohousing.com.