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Digital resources for those in need

When a Lafayette County resident searches on the Internet for “homeless shelters Lafayette County,” it could be heart-wrenching to discover that there are currently no homeless shelters in our community.

What if she failed to see that there is a shelter, the Red Shield Lodge, in Tupelo?

It would be just as heart-wrenching for a Lafayette County resident not to know that there is financial assistance available to help pay an unexpectedly high electric bill — in fact, Interfaith Compassion Ministry, LIFT, and Salvation Army can all help.

Without a centralized compilation of these resources, Lafayette County residents may be unaware of what is available to them.

United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County (UWOLC) decided to do something about that.

UWOLC had published directories in the past, but printed directories go out of date and distributing them widely is difficult.

Therefore, UWOLC has developed “Find Help Lafayette County,” an online, searchable, mobile-friendly resource guide available to anyone with an Internet connection.

The address is www.findhelplafayettecounty.org.

“We put an emphasis on Lafayette County, collecting information on local organizations working to address hunger, support pregnant adolescents, and meet the needs of seniors in Lafayette County — to name a few,” said Liam Clements, AmeriCorps VISTA at United Way and principal designer of the website. “We also felt it was important that Lafayette County residents know there are shelters available in Tupelo and Jackson, if not in our community.

“Using the Internet to find shelters in Oxford won’t generate any results, so there are some essential resources listed on the website outside of Lafayette County but still available to Mississippi residents.”

The emphasis is on ease of use rather than flashy graphics and videos, and a lot of research went into Search Engine Optimization, which means ensuring that people are able to find what they need when they search the Internet using just a few key words or phrases, Liam added. “As Lafayette County changes, so will our website. That’s the nice thing about Digital Age. Additions and updates are always welcomed — please just email info@unitedwayoxfordms.org with any suggestions.”

United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to “improve the lives by uniting people and resources.”

United Way funds programs that focus on ensuring that all Lafayette County residents have the building blocks of a good life: quality education, good health, and stable income. Each year, 99 percent of the dollars raised in Lafayette County stay in Lafayette County (with just one percent going to United Way Worldwide as a membership fee to the global network).

alice ricks is executive director of the United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County.