SOUTH TAMPA – Kim Soletti spends a lot of time sorting clothes.
So much time that recently Soletti was named the OASIS – which stands for Outreach Assisting Students in Schools – network volunteer of the year. She was among other OASIS volunteers honored at a recent brunch.
Soletti is a “sorter,” going through bag after bag of donated clothes and other items, making sure the clothes are clean, in good condition and sorted according to gender, size and type of apparel.
The OASIS distribution centers are open to Hillsborough County School District social workers who “shop” at no cost for specific items for specific families. Some of those items might be underwear, socks, school uniforms, alarm clocks – even soap.
OASIS was founded in 2001 in New Tampa by Lynn Gruber and Terry Wolford, who, while volunteering at their children's schools, noticed many students didn't even have what most take for granted as basic necessities. Several years ago it expanded to a South Tampa location so social workers wouldn't have to travel as far to get the needed items.
Soletti, who has children in Madison Middle School and Robinson High School, has volunteered for about seven years.
“Everybody grows out of the clothes and this is donating them to people that truly need them,” she said.
Susan Elbare, a retired social worker, thanked the OASIS volunteers, saying it wasn't “just about the clothes but about books and alarm clocks so the kids can get up and get to school on time. If it wasn't for you, the volunteers, that wouldn't happen.”
Ginger Bean, Oasis executive director, said they help more than 11,000 students a year on a $100,000 budget, with cash donations used for new underwear, shoes, socks and other items that aren't donated.
“That's a lot time (in existence) and work for a grassroots charity,” Bean said.
Bean said donations can be left in bins at the YMCA in South Tampa and in New Tampa.