Volunteers key for More than a Meal
By Meagan Robinson
For six years, Tricia Barrios Showalter has been volunteering with Oxford’s More Than A Meal inside the Stone Center community building.
The mission of the organization is to provide nutritious meals, educational tutoring and essential toiletries to those who need them in Oxford.
Showalter became involved when she and a friend decided to attend the first organizational meeting. A member of her church, First Presbyterian Church of Oxford, asked her to lead the MTAM volunteer group.
Showalter combined her church volunteers with volunteers at First Regional Library and other clubs to create a team that believes that MTAM is more than just a meal to its guests.
“It’s a community-wide effort to reach out to our neighbors in need,” Showalter said. “It’s providing a friendly, inviting, hospitable community-based place where they can gather and get a hot healthy meal and also get hooked into other services.”
MTAM meets almost every Tuesday night during the school year. The nonprofit organization is completely run by volunteers.
“We definitely try to make it welcoming and very normal, and like you are welcoming in neighbors to your own home,” said Showalter.
MTAM usually has 75-80 guests during the beginning months, starting in August. In cold weather, the guest number may rise to 120.
Community and University of Mississippi student volunteers keep MTAM alive.
“Ole Miss and the students there have been very supportive,” said Showalter. “We have had lots and lots of volunteers come from there. It is wonderful to see students become involved with something in the community.”
Various groups help
Showalter said it’s great to see how many different community groups have come together since the beginning to help out.
“It has not been challenging to fill up our calendar, which has truly been a blessing,” Showalter said.
MTAM has two major projects in the fall — a school supply drive and a drive for coats, scarves and hats for families in need.
Oxford resident Mary Haskell is one of the MTAM volunteers from Showalter’s church.
“It’s always so much fun to see the children feel like it is indeed more than a meal, but a kind of celebration and fellowship,” Haskell said.
Showalter believes volunteers are the most important part of MTAM’s success. “We could not make it happen without the volunteers,” she said.