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Finding A Friend

October 15, 2008, 10:22 PM by Katie Janssen

Finding A Friend
Making friends can be tough, especially for people with disabilities. But an organization at Augustana College is bringing people together in a whole new way. 

It's scrapbooking night in the commons at Augustana College. This group is not only preserving memories, but also making them. 

The group is called FriendsLink, and is made up of Augie students and people with disabilities. 

"It's part of my life,” said Hailey Bork of Sioux Falls. “We do cooking and a lot of things." 

"How nice the people are, they're just so lovely and nice, sweet, kind, caring, and helpful all the time," said Jared Forestberg, also of Sioux Falls. 

Augustana senior Bailey Morris has been FriendsLink's program director for the last year. 

"It's helped me recognize that there are a lot of social stigmas in our society, but there are also a lot of ways to step around them," Morris said. 

Morris took the job because it was an opportunity to work with people she'd never have the chance to meet otherwise. 

"I just really thrive off of the energy I see when somebody connects with another human being." 

The program receives grant money from the Sioux Empire United Way, and some of that is used to fund different events. But the program also takes participants off campus, and that's when it can be difficult to see others' reactions to the group. 

"We do get a few stares and a few gawks,” said Morris, “but our mission is making it as natural as possible."
Morris says in doing so, the volunteers have to be comfortable with many different disabilities and know how to react appropriately. 

"I don't think it's anything that we have a whole lot of trouble dealing with,” Morris said. “There are some personal bubble issues, a few language issues, but the more time we spend, the easier it gets."' 

Morris says one of her favorite things about FriendsLink is that it involves college students who are right around the same age as a lot of the participants. 

"They're coming through the transitionary age of 18 to 21. They're looking for that extra social networking." 

But it's not just for young adults, or even restricted to those with disabilities. The program is open to anyone who wants to join, no matter their age or skill level. The only requirement is a positive attitude. 

"Everyone's here to find that friend,” said Morris. “What better way, if you're headed to the football game, why not invite a friend?" 

And that's exactly what the program provides. 

"Made some good friends here, I think, yeah," said Forestberg. 

To join FriendsLink as a volunteer or participant, contact Bailey Morris at bmmorris@ole.augie.edu. 

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