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For chamber, ‘Phlash Drives’ infuse energy into community outreach

While many philanthropic projects are planned and organized for weeks or months, the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce is proving a lot of good can be done in a short amount of time.

When Chairman of the Board Ryan Miller  started his term in June, he wanted the chamber to focus on how it could give back to the community.

After meeting with CEO and president Jon Maynard and other chamber leadership, the chamber decided that multiple, short-term, abbreviated philanthropic events could provide some creative and fun ways to give back to the community.

“Our chamber membership is made up of many companies, people, and organizations that love to give of themselves,” Miller said.

According to Miller, the actual name “phlash” drive is derived from the phenomena of “flash mobs” and “flash raves” that seemed to pop up among colleges and universities during the last 10 years.

“These are events in which students would show up a predetermined time somewhere on campus and act silly, funny, or even dance for short periods of time,” Miller said. “They always seemed to be a lot of fun and create a contagious energy. We combined that energy with the idea of philanthropy; thus the ‘ph’ in phlash drive.”

Helping flood victims

The first Phlash Drive took place in August after floods submerged thousands of houses and businesses in Louisiana and around the southern Gulf Coast.

“So many people in our community have connections to folks in the areas most affected by the historic flooding,” Miller said.

“We knew the Salvation Army and other philanthropic groups from our area were making regular trips to assist some very needy people. We wanted to do our part.”

The Phlash Drive was announced on the chamber’s social media sites and through emails to members, challenging people to donate water, cleaning supplies, first aid kits and personal hygiene products.

“Our chamber office was filled almost to the ceiling,” Miller said. “Our community did that in less than 72 hours and with nothing more than a video challenge and an email.”

Since then, the chamber has had Phlash Drives for food supplies for The Pantry during Thanksgiving time and more recently, for children winter coats and clothing for the Salvation Army.

“I am not sure of exact numbers of donations, but I do know that coats, sweaters, gloves and other articles of children winter clothes were donated,” he said. “I hope that continues beyond our Phlash Drive. The need will continue.”

Miller said he’s been overwhelmed by the generosity shown by the people of the Lafayette-Oxford-University community.

“People here love people and want to find meaningful ways in which they can show that,” he said. “They have not disappointed when given the opportunity to display that love in real and tangible ways.”

Miller became chairman of the board  just two months after his father, Captain Max Miller, died in a car wreck while helping University of Mississippi students transport a soap box derby car. Max Miller was awarded Citizen of the Year by the chamber after his death.

“He was the most selfless man I have ever known and I wanted to use my position to carry on his calling to serve,” Miller said. “These Phlash Drives help me deal with his loss because I know he would have loved to have participated in them. Giving is fun. There is no way around that.”

Miller said the chamber has some ideas for some more Plash Drives coming up in the spring but hopes to gain some input from community members.

“The fun thing about them is that they lend themselves to public participation,” he said. “If anyone knows of ways in which we can give back to those who are in need, we are interested in learning more.”

For more information  or to share ideas for future Phlash Drives, call the chamber at 662-234-4651.