COMMUNITY GEMS: Couple stays busy with groups aimed at providing comfort, relief

Dick and Sue Wilson believe that working to help the community means going out into it, especially if the emotional and physical conditions seem insurmountable.

Sue spends about five hours a week volunteering for The Oasis House, which offers “hope and support to women survivors of sexual exploitation and trauma.” Dick is a retired police officer who helped launch the Disaster Response Team that has serviced numerous states by assisting with relief following natural disasters.

The Miami Twp. couple was nominated by Lu Musselman to be a Dayton Daily News Community Gem, with Musselman saying they were “good people doing good work.”

Sue, 80, started volunteering for the Oasis House in 2017, starting off with office work, data entry and fundraising and eventually becoming involved in weekly carry-in meals, Bible study and classes related to various topics such as stress management, setting boundaries or some other life skill.

“They encouraged the volunteers to attend those and you get to know the clients, and then you develop mentoring relationships,” she said. “I’ve done that from the beginning every Tuesday, except for COVID ... and I have mentored a couple of women.”

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She also contributed by teaching cooking for the Oasis House’s two safe houses, which are in undisclosed locations.

Sue and another volunteer helped establish a hourlong walking program at a different park each week for women who first arrive at Oasis House, many of them without jobs, but busy with support groups, addiction groups and counseling.

“When you walk with someone shoulder to shoulder, they start talking to you,” she said. “Although that’s not formal mentoring, it turns into a very informal mentoring situation.”

Sue said she also leads one of Oasis House’s street outreach teams, which goes onto streets known to be frequented by sex workers, and gives out bags of toiletries, food and water, plus information about Oasis House.

She said she thinks of her work with the organization as “planting seeds of hope.”

Dick, 75, got his start with the DRT in 2013 when a tornado hit Oklahoma and his church, Miami Twp.’s SouthBrook Christian Church, carried out a mission trip out there to do some disaster relief work.

“The whole place was just wiped out,” said Wilson, a retired West Carrollton police officer. “It was like a bomb went off, so we built storage sheds for people so they would have a place to store their belongings.”

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Moved by what they saw and by the words of parents who lost their children to the tornado, Dick said he and three other members of his church decided to start the Disaster Response Team as a ministry of the church. Launched in 2014, the group has responded to 38 natural disasters in nine states, including Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

“It’s just so rewarding just to try to help these people at least give them hope and encouragement that their lives are not destroyed forever, that there’s people here to help you,” he said. “We’re just trying to show them our faith. We’re there as Christians to help you.”

DRT spent more than two years of work in the Dayton area following tornadoes there. It also has carried out 35 community service projects for senior citizens and people with disabilities, as well as a few for SouthBrook Christian Church.

The couple have a bit of crossover. Dick drives the vehicle when the Oasis House does its street work and Sue helps DRT with “quite a bit” of its administrative work.

The Wilsons said they were surprised to be nominated as Community Gems.

“We’re not in it for the glory or anything,” Dick said. “We’re pleased that (the Dayton Daily News) recognizes all of these people who do volunteer and do help. We feel honored.”

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