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VISTA volunteer pledges to serve the community

By Mrudvi Bakshi

At 27, Liam Clements has made his choice.

He wishes to dedicate his time to supporting the community, especially that of North Mississippi, by helping eradicate poverty at all levels.

Clements is among the select few enlisted to serve as a VISTA at the United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County for a year. His term started in August 2015.

As a part of AmeriCorps’ Volunteers I¬n Service To America program, Clements serves as the communication and outreach coordinator at United Way. The organization helps fund nonprofits that work toward the betterment of the lives of those living in the community.

Clements’ association with volunteering first began during freshman year when he sought a life beyond academics — long before he graduated with a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Mississippi.

“I was involved with programs that helped students register to vote, collected food for the local food pantries and encouraged spring cleaning around residence halls,” he said.

Clements, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, knew VISTA was his calling after a recommendation by his philosophy professor and  after he heard a project coordinator talk about the program.

“Being a VISTA was something I wanted to say I accomplished,” he said.

As a coordinator, Clements is responsible for ensuring the community is aware of what’s going on in their neighborhood.

“I manage our social media sites and review the analytics to better reach the audience of Oxford and Lafayette County,” he said. “I also engage in phone consultations with individuals to help them obtain the resources they need.”

Clements is less than 10 months into the role and already has his hands full.

“Currently I’m updating the Excel By 5 early childhood resource guide coming out this summer, which lists commonly requested resources for children and parents in one book,” he said. “Besides that, I’m also working on a website version of a resource guide, which will list resources available to all ages in the Lafayette-Oxford-University (LOU) community.”

Among the smaller projects Clements handles, he is busy preparing for the Summer Reading and Summer Feeding events with LOU Reads and getting things together for an upcoming Water Day.

He said there is so much to learn, considering every day is different from the previous in the nonprofit world and multiple projects are juggled simultaneously.

“We are fortunate to have a broad representation of cultures and countries, as United Way is  spread across the world,” he said. “Owing to this diversity we are able to reach out to people outside the community, encouraging them to explore and participate with their local United Way branch.”

Clements is approaching his last couple of months with United Way, but he hopes to continue volunteering with the group even after his VISTA service is complete.