• 66°

And the best place to volunteer goes to …

By Mrudvi Bakshi

If you are looking for an opportunity to serve the community, Oxford is definitely the place to be. Ripe with chances to volunteer, people get out and get to work serving their community. The Best of Oxford poll gave those volunteers the chance to let everyone know where they think the best place to volunteer is.

And the winner is the Oxford Lafayette Humane Society.

“I think OLHS won the recognition because we try to make volunteering fun and rewarding,” said Cyd Dunlap, president of the board of directors at OLHS.

Providing shelter and care to about 4,500 animals each year, volunteers of all age groups are welcome to volunteer at this nonprofit. Young children are able to visit the shelter with their parents and spend hours playing with kittens. High school and college students mostly help by walking the dogs around or filling in on a chore for the day.

“We always need newspaper unfolded for our puppy kennels, so that’s a good job for someone who doesn’t want to be hands-on with the animals,” Dunlap said.

The next fundraiser lined up by OLHS will be the Stars & Stripes on the Square, a 5k run/walk happening on the Fourth  of July. Children can participate in the fun run held on the same day and look forward to winning some great prizes.

YAC Powerhouse — runner-up

From middle school students involved in art camps, college students helping organize events and senior citizens curious to impart their knowledge and life experiences, Wayne Andrews credits the diversity of things taking place at the nonprofit the reason for their win.

“We encourage everyone to be a part of this creative process and participate in the different programs we offer,” Andrews said.

YAC regularly participates in live theater productions, encourages children and seniors to enroll in its educational programs and is actively associated with community events and festivals. In an average month, the Powerhouse has 12 volunteers, which could spike up to 24 during bigger events.

The Pantry — runner-up

“Volunteering is a two-way street. You do work and get thanked for it,” said TJ Ray, a longtime volunteer with The Pantry.

He said The Pantry owes the recognition to all the people in the community willing to donate their time to help others. A regular day at The Pantry has clients initially screened on arrival and before getting their food. They are then approached by a volunteer who takes them around with a pre-check checklist, helping them choose from the canned goods, bread, frozen chicken, milk, cooking oil, flour and more.

Each month a different church or a pair of churches have the responsibility of managing the Pantry for the entire calendar month.

“We have people opting to volunteer at all times,” he said. “There is no pre-set, if anyone wants to serve for us they just appear.”

Family Crisis Center — runner-up

Collaborating with community partner agencies, the Family Crisis Center provides an opportunity for students and professionals to learn about community services. Volunteers include a mix of students and professionals involved in the many programs held at the nonprofit.

“We do prevention education as well as awareness presentations and have programs for schools, health fairs, classes,” FCC’s Meredith Rawl said. “We offer classes to help parents better parent their children, and work with them to establish goals.”

The nonprofit also closely helps victims of any violent crime.

“We are a sexual assault resource center, i.e. we provide hospital accompaniment for victims of sexual assault in Lafayette County,” Rawl said. “We work with children and their families when there are allegations of sexual abuse, provide forensic interviews, therapy, court preparation, court accompaniment and victim advocacy.”

In the next couple weeks, the FCC will help coordinate and implement the LOU Fourth of July festivities. Also lined up is its first annual “Bowling for Bravery” fundraiser, which takes place July 21.

Other runners-up include Memory Makers, Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi, United Way, Lovepacks, RSVP, More than a Meal, Leap Frog, North Mississippi Regional Center, Boys & Girls Club, Oxford Film Festival, the veterans home and Habitat for Humanity.