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Doors of Hope kicks off Wreaths of Hope fundraiser

A 28-year-old single mother had the world at her fingertips. Four weeks later, she and her three children are sleeping on her friend’s couch. Unexpected cutbacks at her workplace left her unable to pay rent, buy food and pay utilities. Yvette and her family, due to circumstances beyond her control, had become homeless.  

Homelessness in Oxford and Lafayette County does not necessarily look like homelessness in a large metropolitan area. Fortunately, one does not see people begging on street corners in Oxford, but homelessness is nevertheless a real problem. Very often, families in need are young single mothers with little to no support network. Despite their hard work and good intentions, just one unexpected medical bill or family emergency pushes their finances quickly out of balance. 

In 2011, Sheryl Williams-Jenkins felt compelled to make a difference for these homeless families. She created Doors of Hope Transition Ministries and nine years later, the program has grown to include the Self-Sufficiency Transitional Empowerment Program (STEP), the Housing in Place Program and the Healthy Lifestyles Program.  

The families in the program meet regularly with a social worker to help them with budgeting, employment issues, health needs, transportation, food planning and childcare. Families in shelters invest 30 percent of their earnings in an escrow account in order to have money for a deposit for their own apartment or home at the end of the program.  

The Housing In Place program helps families at risk of eviction to remain in their own home. Doors of Hope works with the landlord after the family has passed the application process and been accepted into the program. The family signs a contract that outlines their responsibilities to help them get back on their feet. They then begin meeting with a case worker who provides guidance and structure in the form of weekly objectives and tasks in order to move clients toward financial independence.  

The Healthy Lifestyles Program helps to provide fresh produce to clients weekly, meal prep tips, nutritional information and education on healthy eating. The organization partners with the Move On Up Mississippi grant program to provide these services. 

In March of this year, Doors of Hope shifted its focus to helping families negatively affected by COVID-19. They have provided assistance with rent and utility bills to over 95 families in Lafayette County, over 7 times their usual level of services. Even as the state opens up, many families are still suffering from unemployment and a subsequent inability to pay their rents or utilities in full.  

Normally at this time Doors of Hope would be planning their annual Holiday House Tour. Under the circumstances with COVID-19, however, they felt it would be difficult to safely and successfully implement the event. Under the direction of fundraising chair, Susan Bartlett, the committee decided to keep their focus on home” and provide an opportunity for the community to participate in an online wreath auction.  

The Wreaths of Hope 2020 fundraiser will feature 50 beautifully decorated wreaths by local designers displayed at 47 businesses around Oxford as well as some fun raffle items. A list of the participating businesses can be found at the Doors of Hope website, www.doorsofhopeoxford.org.  

The auction will be online from Nov. 18 at 8 a.m. until Nov. 21 at 8 p.mTo bid on these unique, one-of-a-kind wreaths go to www.accelevents.com/e/directordohtm. 

As a not-for-profit organization, Doors of Hope relies solely on the generosity of the community and United Way. Information about the online auction can be found on the Doors of Hope website: www.doorsofhopeoxford.org or by calling the office at 662-234-1100.