Life is sometimes explained as a journey. That journey is made by taking a series of steps. For
example, we talk about taking one step at a time when a part of our journey is hard. We describe
some of these steps as small, some big. Sometimes we step forward, sometimes back. On a daily
basis, our staff and volunteers at Oasis Free Clinics help patients take the next step forward on
their journey toward better health. We currently serve over 500 patients with medical, dental, and
mental health care. But it hasn’t always been like that.
Like many non-profit organizations, our clinic started when a few community members
organized to help neighbors in need. Dr. Peter McGuire and a group of volunteers took the first
step when they began providing basic medical services through the Tedford Health Care for the
Homeless Program in 1992. Since then, dozens of volunteers have helped guide Oasis, step by
step, to becoming the largest free clinic in Maine. Our organization wasn’t founded with the goal
of becoming the largest free clinic in Maine. But that’s part of the amazing thing about the life of
an organization and our lives as individuals. Where we will go on our journey isn’t always
known when we begin. We simply take one step at a time.
I came to Oasis as a volunteer on the finance committee in 2016. I joined because Dr. McGuire is
a longtime family friend, and I wanted to help. I’m not a doctor, and I haven’t worked in a
hospital or clinic before. I simply believe health and wellness are critical to achieving our highest
potential as individuals. Volunteering with Oasis is a way for me to help neighbors in need
achieve their highest potential. However, what I didn’t understand when I started my journey
with Oasis is how much I would learn. A small step back in 2016 has led to a wealth of
Part of what I have learned is that leading a non-profit organization is about helping guide a
group of individuals toward a common goal. Over time these goals evolve and frequently that
next step is not obvious. We spend time debating options, trying to predict outcomes, or
weighing positive and negative aspects of various steps. Our growth as an organization comes
down to volunteers and staff working together to take action. Diversity of knowledge, skills, and
experience in our volunteers are critical to determining the right next step.
Recruiting volunteers for non-profit service, however, is currently challenging. A 2022 Gallup
survey illustrated that the rate of volunteering, while increasing, has not yet rebounded to pre-
pandemic levels. My hope is that more community members will once again start to volunteer.
Our Midcoast Maine community has incredible non-profit organizations. I know my time with
Oasis has helped me through the challenges of the past few years. For me, one of the most
valuable aspects of volunteering is that I get to work with a group of people I might not
otherwise know. Volunteering has also taught me that if you listen and are willing to try
something new, you will learn invaluable lessons along the way – lessons about life, leadership,
If you have interest in a non-profit organization or a cause that is important to you and have a
little bit of time to share, I strongly encourage you to reach out and see how you can help. It
doesn’t have to be a big commitment. Almost all non-profits need help with simple tasks like
setting up for events or mailing letters. Start small, one step at a time. These small actions
accumulate and create incredible change in our community. I’m willing to bet what you learn
from your service will help you on your own journey. I know it has on mine.