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Volunteer USI recognizes award recipients, tallies more than 2.3 million volunteer hours

August 25, 2022

Volunteer USI, the University of Southern Indiana's volunteer organization, celebrated its 2022 award recipients and dedicated volunteer community during the annual Volunteer USI Recognition Dinner on Wednesday, August 24. During the 2021-22 fiscal year, volunteers devoted 52,578 hours to USI and the local community. Since 1996, Volunteer USI has recorded a total of 2,336,383 volunteer hours. 

Each year, Volunteer USI recognizes three award recipients who have contributed outstanding service with a lasting impact to USI and/or the community. The award categories include Volunteer of the Year, Mentor of the Year and Student Volunteer of the Year. 

Volunteer of the Year 

Linda Oliver '90, USI alumna and Varsity Club member, was recognized as the 2022 Volunteer of the Year. Oliver has devoted her time to USI for over 15 years, serving to meet numerous University needs. She regularly helps with activities and events for USI Athletics, including USI Basketball, Volleyball, Baseball, Softball, Cross Country and others.  

Outside of USI Athletics, Oliver volunteers for USI by helping students check-in for Screaming Eagles Orientations, supporting various Welcome Week activities, serving to promote volunteerism at student involvement fairs, helping with campus landscape improvements, assisting during Commencement ceremonies, organizing alumni mailings and preparing flags for several special USI events. During the last academic year, she volunteered more than 160 hours at the University. 

A fellow volunteer said, "Linda is always ready to volunteer," and "she is always ready to step up no matter the task."  

An anonymous nominator says, "Linda has great joy and enthusiasm for helping others. She is someone who takes the initiative, is attentive to detail and is efficient in all her volunteer activities for USI." 

Mentor of the Year 

Dr. Matthew Powless, Assistant Professor of Psychology, was recognized as the 2022 Mentor of the Year. Powless holds three degrees in psychology from Indiana University-a bachelor's degree in psychology; a Master of Science master's degree in Education, specializing in counseling and counselor education; and a doctorate in counseling psychology with a focus on sport and performance psychology.  

His research interests include clinical and counseling psychology, sport and performance psychology, scholarship of teaching and learning, adverse childhood experiences and deliberate practice. Powless taught Introduction to Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology and Research Methods and Statistics I and II at USI. 

Powless made time to address student concerns and issues beyond course content. He often advised psychology majors about their education paths, different psychology professions and how to explore those professions. While at USI, he helped students identify goals and offered advice on the steps to take to achieve goals in, and beyond, the classroom.  

When Powless encountered a situation he could help with, he was always involved and committed to helping others. His kind, approachable nature and genuine desire to help students made it easy for struggling students to talk to him, and he was known to refer students to Counseling and Psychological Services when they were in need of further guidance. 

An anonymous nominator says, "Dr. Powless was known as the kindest and most approachable professor among the psychology faculty by students. His sincerity and genuineness created a friendly environment in all his classrooms. His advice gave me the clarity I sought regarding my degree path."  

Student Volunteer of the Year 

Sarah Fruit, a senior at USI, was recognized as the 2022 Student Volunteer of the Year. Fruit is a food and nutrition major with a concentration in dietetics and a minor in personal training.  

In her first three years at USI, Sarah volunteered over 412 hours to USI and community organizations. Her passion for nutrition shines through her volunteer work, and she uses her USI education to benefit the community. Fruit teaches nutrition education at community health fairs, and nutrition classes for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation.  

Fruit has assisted with snack preparation for after-school programs at Patchwork Central and has volunteered for more than two years at Urban Seeds, a local nonprofit that advocates for a quality, equitable and robust food system, increasing access to healthy food. At Urban Seeds, she helps fulfill orders for the Nourish bulk-food buying club, and during the summer of 2020, she prepared 200 meals from scratch each week to support Evansville organizations and individuals.  

Fruit has volunteered for the Tri-State Food Bank and the Market on Main, an organization which strives to fill homes with locally grown produce, meals and hand-crafted products. She distributed meals at the National African American Parent Involvement Day, worked the SWIRCA Nutrition Education Booth, and spent time helping at the Vanderburgh County Women, Infants and Children Clinic. 

She also volunteered her time for organizations and programs including High School TEENPOWER and Middle School TEENPOWER, during which time she facilitated small and large group activities for 400 students and served as a mentor for members of TEENPOWER's Youth Staff. 

Since 2014, Fruit has volunteered at Youth Resources where she has served as a college advisor for the Teen Advisory Council, mentored high-school students, and assisted with the planning and execution of two fundraising events-Big Man on Campus and Youth Resources' Trivia Night. She has also helped with Emerging Leaders, participating in mentor groups and completing outside service and leadership activities. 

At USI, Fruit has served as a scholarship interviewer for the Harolyn Torain Multicultural Leadership Scholarship and as a member of the Sodexo Student Board of Directors, during which time she collected input from students regarding dining and food services on campus.  

Since the fall of 2019, she has served as a USI Student Ambassador, providing weekly tours and working open house events for prospective students and their families, and since spring of 2020, as a USI Orientation Leader, helping to develop a virtual curriculum for incoming students, facilitating orientation sessions for 350 students and mentoring and educating first-year Orientation Leaders. 

Fruit has been a member of the USI Food and Nutrition student organization since the fall of 2020 and is currently serving as the organization's president. She has coordinated menus, purchasing and cooking for the Ronald McDonald House, planned and advertised for a guest speaker for the USI community and helped create a nutrition-related newsletter for the USI campus. 

Fruit's nominator says, "Sarah is an outstanding young woman. She is not only intelligent and bright, but she has a warm and welcoming personality. I have never met a young woman who is so self-assured and confident in her own skin. She inspires me. Sarah is always the first to volunteer and has a true passion for helping people. She is successful at juggling fulltime classes, while also working at both Deaconess Hospital and USI as a lead tutor in Academic Skills."


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