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The Skiff Orientation Edition: Welcome, Class of 28!
The Skiff Orientation Edition: Welcome, Class of '28!
By Georgie London, Staff Writer
Published May 13, 2024
Advice from your fellow Frogs, explore Fort Worth, pizza reviews and more. 

Student-led SOAP group helps clean up poverty

Student-led SOAP group helps clean up poverty

A closet full of roaches. A couch covered in dust and dirt. A mattress on the floor with the springs breaking through.

These are the norms at the one- or two-bedroom apartments families live in at homeless shelters in the area, said Joe Askew, co-creator of a new student organization on campus, Student Outreach Against Poverty, or SOAP.

People with homes like these or no homes at all are those whom the members of SOAP are trying to help.

These guys are down-to-earth students, smiling and making jokes with each other.

But it’s not all fun and games. They have the paperwork – a constitution, mission statement and pledges – the advising, and the interworkings of a nonprofit organization.

More importantly, they have warm personalities and apparent passion.

SOAP was started by sophomore business majors Joe Askew and Zach Huie, who were roommates last semester.

At some point in the semester, their dorm displayed posters up with statistics and facts about poverty around the world. One day, Askew and Huie exchanged words about how it would be “cool” to start an organization to help poverty, but then continued on with their day.

Later that night it was brought up again.

“We were bored and joking at night and I was like, ‘Hey, do you really want to do something like that?'” Askew said.

Huie was onboard and the roommates bounced ideas off each other.

Rather than focusing on developing countries or other distant areas, the students decided to start the program here in the Metroplex.

According to the 2007 U.S. Census Bureau poverty report, the percentage of people living below the poverty level in Tarrant County fell from 12.9 to 12.2, but that still leaves a lot of people to help.

And SOAP plans to do just that.

Their mission statement is “to promote, recognize and award hard-working and deserving individuals in need and to improve the overall quality of life through community service.”

Or, in Askew’s simplified version: “To help people out who have fallen on hard times.”

The students are starting small this semester as they try to keep everything organized and manageable. Right now they are working on acquiring more members and pledges.

SOAP communications and advertising director Brett Musslewhite, sophomore film-TV-digital media sports broadcasting major, said each member asked parents, relatives and professors to pledge a desired amount of money for each hour of community service the member does.

“The pledges make it so that we are not only helping out by doing community service, but we are helping indirectly to raise money for the project at the end of the semester,” Musslewhite said.

Askew said their main service project is to take the money from pledges and donations, and a few days before Christmas, go pick out a family from a shelter in Dallas to help make their holiday merrier.

Food, clothes, mattresses, a clean house and maybe a savings fund will be in store for the special family, which will be vastly different from what they are used to.

The usual living situations at the shelter are less than ideal, Askew said, but when SOAP comes to help out, the roaches and broken mattresses will be replaced with shiny, wrapped gifts and more comfortable bedding.

This hands-on helping rather than just monetary donations makes SOAP unique, Huie said.

“The one thing that we have that will want to make students join is that tangible experience where you can really see the before-and-after where you’ve really made a difference in a family’s life and really helped turn them around,” Huie said.

With 22 members at the moment, Askew hopes their upcoming fundraiser will rake in some potential members who will be willing to take some time and help out those in need.

“One of the reasons me and Zach wanted to start this is because we have so much free time on our hands, although it doesn’t really seem like it right now,” Askew said with a laugh. “So if we could just step back and kind of realize the things we take for granted and the struggle other people go through, with a little work on our part we could really benefit someone else.”

SOAP will hold its first fundraiser on Wednesday near Winston-Scott Hall. They will raffle a flat-screen TV, hand out free pizza and try to get students interested in the organization as it takes shape over the upcoming semesters.

Huie is red-shirting as a basketball player this year and relates the feeling of community service to winning a game.

“We both grew up playing basketball, and when you hit that game-winner it’s a great feeling,” Huie said, “but I know I have had experiences and Joey’s had experiences of when you help someone, that it really doesn’t get any better than that.”

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