Initially, Ohio University senior Shea Daniels was skeptical about taking on the immense responsibility of coordinator. The new job would include organizing and running the kitchen for two large weekly meals.
Then, remembering why she started volunteering when she was a junior, she gladly accepted the position at United Campus Ministries. She wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to help her community.
“I liked the idea of a meals program that serves both the Athens and the Ohio University communities,” Daniels said. “Sometimes those communities are split.”
Daniels volunteers her time as a student intern at UCM, a nonprofit on 18 N. College St. in Athens, which embodies the spirit of the community. Its programs feed, educate and nurture the bodies and souls of the people who walk through their doors — including the staff.
In her role as coordinator, Daniels learns from the people around her. She's learned practical skills and gained confidence
“We’re all in this together and I really think that’s the biggest impact UCM has had on me, the realization that we all have to work for each other and do good things for everyone."
-Rachel Hyden, Student Intern
in addition to the satisfaction felt from helping.
"I’ve gained this skill like the delegation and the ability to cook for that many people and run a kitchen. “Cooking for 80 people at the age of 21 is really intimidating, but after the first meal, it got easier … I’ve gained so much confidence,” she said.
UCM has only three permanent staff members and 13 board members. At the core of the organization, though, are the seven unpaid student interns. One such student intern, Brian Burke, said that UCM has given him the chance to branch out socially.
“In working with the other interns, I’ve kind of experienced people from different walks of life and different social settings than the ones I would typically be aligned with,” Burke said. “I think that it’s just sort of an oasis for a hectic student life.”
The ministry offers a variety of programming, events and opportunities for spiritual growth, community service and social justice. According to their website, their programs are free and open to everyone, regardless of who you are, what you believe (or don't) or where you come from, describing their hospitality as "radical".
UCM has also been integral in the startup of many local organizations, since its incorporation in 1968. Among them is the popular Women's Studies Program, now Women's and Gender Studies, at Ohio University.
Rachel Hyden, another student intern, said the services UCM provides do not necessarily have to do with faith, but rather with doing things to better the community.
One of the things UCM does to better the community is providing free meals to low-income community members on Thursdays and Saturdays. Those affiliated with UCM have cleaned the Hocking River and have raised money for developing nations. Occasionally, UCM sponsors speakers.
It also sponsors Interfaith Impact, which is a student organization at OU that encourages interfaith dialogue and activities. Another one of its programs is “A Girlfriends Guide to Activism,” which provides dialogue with women activists in the community.
Hyden said that being a part of UCM has helped her become more focused and selfless, and has given her something to care about.
“I started realizing that there’s more to this world than just me,” she said. “We’re all in this together and I really think that’s the biggest impact UCM has had on me, the realization that we all have to work for each other and do good things for everyone."