Fellowship of Christian Optometrists: Becoming Locals in a Transition City - By: Hannah Williams

      This year, I serve as the president of the SCO chapter of Fellowship of Christian Optometrists (FCO), after having been a member of FCO since my first year in optometry school.  SCO is fortunate to be located in a city that is “not too big, but not too small,” allowing us to take part in fun events and outreach events between cultures and races that simply may not be found in towns that some of our students come from.  FCO provides monthly opportunities for members to be intentional about their relationships and their time outside of the classroom.  Two of our monthly local outreach opportunities are Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM), and the Calvary Episcopal Church’s downtown food mission breakfast. 

      At MAM, I was able to connect with a few of the little girls who wanted to “play hair” more than they wanted to join some of the older kids playing basketball in the gymnasium.  We also set aside time to invest in the kids; we shared a story of faith and testimony that would apply to their young lives and we chatted over dinner.  Most of the kids that go to MAM after school live nearby.  Some of our volunteers also serve there as tutors for the children, in addition to our FCO monthly night.

      My favorite local outreach is the Calvary breakfast for the homeless community.  Our FCO Faculty sponsor meets us at 5:30 in the morning to cook and prepare breakfast, coffee, juice, and milk for 100+ people from the community.  Each of them is invited to hear the pastor share a message before joining us for prayer and breakfast.  I love bringing new people to Calvary, because at least one student volunteer always comments on how great the breakfast is – we don’t even spend the time to make such a breakfast for ourselves!  These biscuits and grits are real and filled with that perfect touch of the South.  Each plate is given to a guest individually, then they are also invited to find a book to take with them or to peruse the Clothing Closet, which is full of donated underclothes, sweaters, jeans, and jackets, as well as hygiene items.  My first time in the Clothing Closet, I was overwhelmed at the basic needs that I was taking for granted.  Most of the guests that I helped find clothes really just wanted socks and underwear, which prompted an unofficial clothing drive in my extended family. 

     As a rising fourth year student (I still cannot believe that sometimes), I hope that every person at SCO has the chance to walk away from the books a couple times to intentionally reach out a hand into this community that becomes our home away from home for three to four years.  I am so thankful to FCO for showing our members that even though SCO is preparing us to be great doctors, we will also be more outside of our exam lanes and offices.  We will be members of communities, tutors for children, and helping hands for the homeless. 

Hannah Williams is in her last semester as a third-year student.  She loves all things sunny and beach-filled, along with all things dancing and music-filled.  She is involved in FCO, Lion’s Club, Optometric Private Practice, and North and South Carolina State Clubs, as well as events with Island Community Church and her core group of friends that God blessed her to “just happen to sit with” on the first day of school.