Kansas City Missouri native Anna Thomas wanted to get involved in the community when she moved to Oxford to attend the University of Mississippi as a freshmen.
“I had previously been involved in a few volunteer programs when I was still in high school and wished to continue helping out the community of Oxford as it was going to be my home for the next four years,” Thomas said. “Yet I was unsure of where to find a place to help out at until I found the LOU Connection, which gave me a wide variety of options and places to start working with immediately.”
Created only 11 months ago, the Lafayette-Oxford University Volunteer Connection helps Oxford and Lafayette County citizens find places to volunteer. The organization was founded by a group longtime Oxford volunteers who realized many citizens wanted to volunteer, but were unsure where to start.
“A lot of businesses need volunteers, but aren’t sure how to get them,” said Gillian Myers, a LOUVC ambassador.
Those who want to volunteer or donate items to help the community can head to the LOUVC office at South 16th St. to learn how to work with one of 13 participating area organizations that range from food shelters, animal shelters, and education non-profits, giving those who want to serve a chance to choose from a variety of options.
“While we, ourselves, do not accept or rely on donations to function, we do consistently promote, receive and deliver supply donations from community members and volunteers to our partner organizations who do require the extra boost,” said Marlee Carpenter, LOUVC volunteer coordinator. “Some of these organization would be Memory Makers, More Than a Meal, MS Critterz, Lovepacks and the Pantry.”
While this organization is closely linked with local public schools, it is open to all who want to create a better community and build relationships.
“The LOU Volunteer Connection wants to ensure volunteering is more accessible for students, working parents and families,” Carpenter said. “The Lafayette, Oxford and University community naturally gives back, but folks aren’t sure where to begin. Our mission is to connect volunteers with service. We serve as a one-stop shop for volunteering.”
Carpenter said the organization is growing. “Thus far, we have successfully rebranded our organization, recruited 400 new volunteers, obtained around 3,600 service hours and are growing every day and expanding at a much faster pace than we could have ever imagined,” she said.
LOUVC employees and volunteer counselors spend many days speaking in schools, businesses, and forums to make people more aware of the organization. The effects are also reciprocated by those who have been helped.
Carpenter said the community inspires her to help others. “Our community inspires me to get up for work everyday at LOUVC,” she said. “They are eager to give back and serve one another every day. Also the building of relationships with nonprofit organizations and being able to support their needs is very rewarding for me.”
Myers said instead of just helping one non-profit, people helping LOUVC can contribute to all the nonprofits that are working with them.
“I’m inspired by seeing the results that can be achieved when different members of our community work toward a common purpose,” she said.