Wesleyan’s high school service team, Omicron Service Society, and Wesleyan community members partnering with Mercy Care work to live out Wesleyan’s J.O.Y. motto.
Wesleyan’s mission statement says its top priority is to be a Christian institution. The J.O.Y. motto stands for Jesus, Others and Yourself. It is the origin of Wesleyan’s identity in Christ. According to the school’s official website, “From the Greek letter O, Omicron is an open society inviting the entire Wesleyan family to serve others gladly. In light of the example of Jesus Christ, the mission of the Omicron Service Society is to encourage discipleship through the practice of service.”
Omicron Service Society’s purpose is to provide students with frequent and occasional opportunities to serve their community. They partner with Corners Outreach, Lazarus Ministries, Operation Christmas Child, Georgia Lymphoma Society and numerous other organizations through fundraisers, charitable collections and service events.
Team Omicron is the largest it has been in Wesleyan history, causing the foundation of two new teams, and it still continues to grow. There is now a Green, Gold, Black and White team as well as a newly-founded middle school team. Team Omicron members serve others from November to January for three to four days a week. Service Coordinator Nathan Emmelhainz said, “Omicron Service Society is trying this year to make more opportunities available to the general population, as well. Everyone needs a chance to serve.”
Teachers as well as students spend some of their treasured free time serving others. Spanish teacher Myriam Liverance, Bible teacher Kali Sessions and English faculty fellow Avery Weatherford drive busses and help organize and participate in service outings. Weatherford said, “It’s easy for me to get caught up in my to-do list and continually look inward at my own life, but taking a few hours out of my week to tutor students hits the refresh button. I am reminded that life is not all about me. And getting to serve alongside my students is a major plus.”
First-year member and senior Daniel Baisier said, “At the beginning of the year, Mr. Cleveland challenged us to try something new. This challenge, when combined with the ‘why not’ mentality of senior year, motivated me to join Omicron. Last winter, I took my first season off from Wesleyan sports since sixth grade, and I was unbelievably bored. Omicron seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something incredible and worthwhile.”
Omicron members tutor refugees in Clarkston when they “go to various ministries in the [Atlanta] area and serve them in whichever way they ask,” according to Baisier. Emmelhainz said there are 12 destinations a week for the combined team, and the team has different service projects every Tuesday through Thursday.
Fourth-year member and senior Abbie Blauser said her favorite part of Omicron is “going to Corners Outreach and helping kids with homework but also getting to know them. Since I’ve been going to Corners since my freshman year, I’ve gotten to develop relationships with kids there and watch them grow up. It’s so awesome.” Sophomore and new member Liza Yates realizes that the service members are not only helping the kids with their schoolwork. She said, “I’m helping these kids with math, but I’m growing relationships, too.”
Along with high school students, all Wesleyan parents, middle and lower school students and faculty also had the chance to serve on Nov. 7 at Mercy Care’s Capture the Warmth event. It was held in the lower school’s cafeteria from 6 to 8 p.m. Volunteers donated Gifts of Warmth, including new or gently used coats, hats, socks, blankets, etc., assembled Blessing Bags, laundry kits and children’s activity kits, wrote personal notes of encouragement and Christmas cards, made scarves and sorted and counted the Gifts of Warmth donations.
Mercy Care’s Wesleyan Liaison Mandi Montgomery said, “Last year, Wesleyan had over 750 items collected, which went out to the individuals living in need.”
Emmelhainz said Wesleyan got involved with Mercy Care because “Wesleyan parents and students already involved with the agency recommended them to [him], and [he] had a meeting with representatives. Seeing the potential for a good connection, [he] scheduled a few events to try them out last year. [He] decided it was a good fit, and [Wesleyan has] partnered with them a little more this year.”
Caroline Jeffords, mother of second grader Evie Jeffords said, “Mercy Care volunteers and employees teach the after-school enrichment program for the lower school, and we do the Capture the Warmth event. We also have the mobile coach come and do the coat drive as well, so we’re getting more and more involved with Wesleyan.”
According to Montgomery, “Mercy Care’s been in operation for over 30 years, and before that, we actually had our roots back to 1875 with the Sisters of Mercy. They came to America, and they started as the Walking Nuns. And they built the first hospital in Atlanta.”
“[Mercy Care workers are] the doctors to the homeless in Atlanta, and we do that through clinics, mobile coaches and also street medicine, [which means workers who] go out in small teams to help people who are truly, truly indigent.”
Montgomery said, “Mercy Care clinics and our Mercy mobile coaches operate five days a week. We go to different fixed-site locations, and we also have the street medicine team. They go out at night. Now they’re going out four nights a week, so pretty much like a regular doctor’s office with regular doctor’s office hours. The exception is our patients are those who are most in need. Many of them are uninsured and living below the poverty line.”
Mercy Care clinics are unique because they “are structured as PCMH, which is Patient Centered Medical Home. That means that all of their paperwork is kept together, so for a lot of our population, if they’re homeless, they don’t have paperwork. They’re not able to show what medications they’re on. We keep all of that information together, so when they come to our clinics, they can receive vision, dental, primary health as well as behavioral health, [which inlcudes] talking about your feelings and pastoral care. They can receive all of those items at Mercy Care in the same building.”
“We’re Catholic in nature, so we take a lot of direction from [the Sisters of Mercy], but at the same time, we do understand that while we were founded under the Catholic beliefs, not all of our employees are Catholic, but the majority of our employees and our volunteers are Christian,” said Montgomery.
Last year, senior Grayson Ragsdale collected $3,000 in donations for Mercy Care by organizing high school volunteers who agreed to pull their individual $100 together from Marc Khedouri’s Do Something Beautiful chapel devotion.
Montgomery said, “We believe that you can give up your time, your talent or your treasure, so in that instance, Grayson and Wesleyan were able to facilitate a beautiful donation of their treasure, of their funds, and those funds went to provide kitchen equipment for our healthy cooking and healthy cooking with diabetes class, and so that’s kind of like a support group but also a healthy cooking class for individuals who are living with diabetes who need just a little bit of help to learn how to cook a little bit healthier… so it’s a wonderful cause for them.”
Ragsdale was honored by the Association of Fund-Raising Professionals as second place winner of Georgia’s state-wide Teen Volunteer of the Year Award on Nov. 2 at the Georgia Aquarium. Her advice to anyone interested in volunteering is to “100% go for it. The end benefit is really worth it because it changes not only your life, which is kind of the selfish aspect of it, but so many other people’s lives. Start small with any organization. You will make an impact. People don’t realize how great their influence is and how much it will impact people’s lives.”
Emmelhainz’s advice to anyone interested in volunteering is to simply “help someone. Mercy Care, Corners Outreach, something. Find a place you can give and do it more often than is convenient but not so often that you lose sight of the good.”
Montgomery said, “On Dec. 21, we have our candlelight vigil where we honor those who passed away while homeless. It’s in downtown Decatur and downtown Atlanta. We light a candle for those who passed away, and then we open up a coat closet, so if anyone wants to come and see where their donations went, they’re able to come do that.”
Do not hesitate to get involved and live out the J.O.Y. motto. If you want to help out Wesleyan’s Omicron Service Society or volunteer in general, e-mail Emmelhainz at NEmmelhainz@wesleyanschool.org for further information.