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Oxford charities provide Christmas cheer for all

Oxonians are spreading more Christmas cheer than ever this holiday season.

Organizations like Interfaith Compassion Ministries, Oxford City Market and Toys for Tots helped to provide everything from food to warm clothes to Christmas presents for a multitude of people in Lafayette County and the surrounding area.

Oxford’s local United Way chapter is a financial partner for both Interfaith Compassion Ministries and Oxford City Market, while Toys for Tots is a charity of the Marine Corps League in Oxford.

Oxford’s United Way chapter financially contributes to a variety of groups in the community.

“In fiscal year 2017 to 2018, United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County provided financial support to 20 partner organizations that promote health, education, and financial stability,” Executive Director Kurt Brummet said.

One of the organizations involved with United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County is Interfaith Compassion Ministries. ICM works to help the elderly, disabled and needy in Lafayette County.

This holiday season, the organization held a blanket drive, which will run through New Years. Lena Wiley, who has been with the organization since 1999, says the drive has been a success.

“We’ve collected over 400 blankets this year,” Wiley said. “As soon as we get them, we pass them out to people who need them.”

Those in need of a blanket to keep warm this week can pick one up at the ICM office at 1918 University Ave.

Oxford Community Market has taken advantage of Mississippi’s long growing season this Christmas.

Betsy Chapman, director for the market, says giving is an integral part of their everyday operations, as well as the Holidays.

“This year, we delivered 2,935 pounds of fresh local produce to food pantries,” Chapman said.  “It’s not only helping families in need. It’s helping the local food economy as well.”

While OCM’s biggest charitable holiday event was their Thanksgiving Harvest Angels Basket project, which helped 40 families through food pantries in Oxford, the market has continued giving through Christmastime.

One way they’ve given back is by donating fresh vegetables, baked goods and homemade sweets to senior citizens at Canterbury Crest. OCM is also the only farmer’s market in Lafayette County that accepts SNAP and WIC benefits and matches them dollar-for-dollar.

“Our main goal for next year is to get out there and make sure we’re serving all of the community,” Chapman said.

Another organization that has significantly increased its efforts this year is Toys for Tots. The organization itself began in 1947 and was started by the United States Marine Reserve. Gene Hayes, Oxford’s local coordinator, says the organization’s contributions to the community are steadily increasing.

“We passed out over 800 toys to children in 5 counties,” Hayes said. “That’s more than twice as many as last year.”

Donations began Oct. 1, with 50 local businesses as well as some national stores hosting drop-off boxes. Hayes also said the training conference he attended in Washington, D.C. was helpful in getting the word out to the community.

After collecting all the toys, it took Hayes and a couple of volunteers two weeks to package them for delivery. Each recipient received three toys and a stuffed animal, courtesy of PetSmart.

Out of the children the organization helped this year, 50 percent were from Panola County, and over 24 were in the foster care system.

While the organization is a function of the Marine Corps Reserve, Hayes says everyone is encouraged to volunteer.

“They don’t have to be affiliated with the Marines, just pledge to uphold their ideals,” Hayes said. “We all work for one common goal, to provide toys for needy children.”

For more information on how to contribute these organizations and others like them, visit http://www.unitedwayoxfordms.org/ and https://oxford-ms.toysfortots.org.