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Behind the Flight and the Plight of the SOAR Center

Mary Vickery

Contributing Writer

Photo from the bearcat pantry website


There are many perks to attending a small university. One can have close relationships with professors, attend smaller classes and get involved easily. Willamette offers more than just perks; it offers necessities like the SOAR Center. Though, the SOAR Center doesn’t just run magically- it requires a lot of consistent moving parts.

For those who don’t know yet, the Students Organizing for Access to Resources (SOAR) Center provides equitable access to resources such as food, clothing and textbooks for the Willamette community. The SOAR Center was founded in 2018 and houses the Bearcat Pantry, Clothing Share and the First-Generation Book Drive. As signified by the name, the SOAR Center is run by a staff of Willamette students. However, the SOAR Center added Justin Leibowitz, the assistant dean for Community Care and Inclusion, to the list of people who attend the program in the summer of 2022. Lebowitz essentially advises student leaders and then ensures that their knowledge and understanding aren’t lost when they move on, come the time of their graduation. Leibowitz also works hard to ensure those student workers get compensated for their hard work via “leadership awards”. Though instead of the awards coming from the Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU), the SOAR Center submits a yearly Community Action Fund for Equity and Sustainability (CAFES) proposal, typically in the spring to fund them. Most of the CAFES money does in fact go directly to student workers, as the stock of the SOAR Center has a considerably low cost due to them being primarily donations. Food comes from the Marion Polk Food Share and both clothing and textbooks from a variety of community members including alumni, fellow students and even parents. The money that doesn’t go to students, goes toward the specific needs of the center which includes things like STEM textbooks (which are surprisingly rarely donated), clothing racks and simple notebooks.

While perhaps not struggling financially, like all great things, SOAR has been picking up on and working to amend its issues. If one took a trek up to the third floor of the University Center and down the hall into the SOAR Center they would instantly find that where food and textbooks may have an obvious permanent home, the clothing does not. Student workers are pushing to find a more efficient, inclusive way to display and share clothing with the Willamette community. Leibowitz said that “[the clothing share] is not set up to be as helpful as we want it to be.'' One of the ways he discussed amending this is by moving inventory to be online. This would clear the space while also keeping the variety of clothing. Leibowitz stressed that, “if we pair down our inventory, we end up not being accessible to people of a variety of sizes.” To ensure that Willamette keeps its community, SOAR proposes a monthly clothing swap where people can bring what they want and can take what they want.


Regarding food, the SOAR Center wants to provide high-priced essentials like meat and dairy products. However, these items go bad quickly. Because Willamette is so small, the confidence that these items will be utilized in time, so SOAR isn't taking resources from others in need and wasting them, is low. To combat this issue, they submitted the idea to provide these products one day a month which is highly advertised. This way, resources aren’t wasted and the Willamette community doesn’t have to do without.


If students would like to help, they are always looking for volunteers and for more textbooks. They can be reached at SOAR-Center@willamette.edu or check out their Instagram @soarcenterwu.


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