Michigan native finds new home in Selma

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 27, 2004

Stephanie Oswald’s office &uot;nook&uot; is located in the Catholic Social Ministry building just behind Church’s Fried Chicken. The room is mostly bare &045; just a few pictures on the walls, an old typewriter sitting quietly on her desk and a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

They’re all she needs in an office rarely visited.

Oswald, a recent addition to Selma, spends most of her time outside the office. As a long-term Edmundite Mission Corps volunteer, Oswald’s duties aren’t behind a desk. They lie in the homes of the elderly, at adult day-cares and at the Claude C. Brown YMCA.

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Oswald, though, was quick to note she wasn’t the only volunteer in Selma. &uot;There are lots of people in Selma doing great things,&uot; she said. &uot;Lots of agencies giving out food, for example. People in Selma are aimed at making Selma better. It’s about humbling yourself in order to get done what needs to get done.&uot;

Oswald’s days usually start in the homes of shut-ins. One person she visits regularly, a 92-year-old woman who has outlived her immediate family, has lived in the same house all her life. Oswald said that despite the woman’s age she still has vigor and energy. She still has stories to tell.

At the adult day-care Oswald teaches yoga. Exercise may not enable someone to live longer, but it does improve the quality of someone’s life as they age. &uot;Yoga gets people in tune with their bodies,&uot; she said. &uot;You become very aware of your body.&uot;

Afternoons are spent at the Brown YMCA, where she mainly works with teenagers. She’s currently developing a music workshop. &uot;Kids look up to music artists,&uot; Oswald said. &uot;Whether they realize it or not, kids are looking up to them. We need to up the standard. Our role models need to be revamped.&uot;

Oswald said she wants to bring music artists who contribute to society into her workshop. &uot;A lot of these people are active in the community,&uot; Oswald said. &uot;I want kids to see that they’re into their community so they emulate that.&uot;

Oswald, a Michigan native, came to Selma by way of North Dakota. Her road to Alabama began while at Northern Michigan University. She had been studying pre-med and then English, but neither felt right. Instead of trying to continue controlling the direction of her life, she chose to let God take over.

After praying, Oswald knew that a change would occur in her life on May 15, 2003. That’s when she told her landlord she was moving out and her boss that she would leave.

She began applying to volunteer agencies online, but by then it was April and time was running out.

Eventually, a woman from North Dakota contacted her about a traveling Vacation Bible School class. When Oswald asked when it started, she knew the job was right.

She began her new job May 15.

The position lasted throughout the summer, and when it was close to ending, Oswald again prayed about her future. &uot;I prayed for flowers,&uot; she said. &uot;I wanted to see the daisies. I prayed that I would know.&uot;

Before the job ended she went to church and found a huge bouquet of daisies before a statue of the Virgin Mary. &uot;And I knew it was going to be OK,&uot; she added.

The same day she received an e-mail from the Edmundite Mission Corps about her current job in Selma. &uot;I wanted to be a part of Selma,&uot; she said. &uot;I’ve always been active in civil and women’s rights. It all fit.&uot;

In August 2003 she stepped off a plane and into Selma. &uot;I love the people,&uot; she said. &uot;When I first arrived, I thought I wouldn’t be accepted, but I was more accepted here than anywhere. We’re working together to help the community. There’s work to be done here. I can’t start something and leave it.&uot;