New Oxonians named Pantry’s ‘Volunteers of the Year’

Published 9:35 am Wednesday, February 28, 2024

José and Carmen Martin were named the 2023 Volunteers of the Year by the Oxford Pantry recently. The couple has been volunteering at the Pantry for two and a half years.

Carmen Martin said being named Volunteers of the Year was a “humbling experience.” 

“We are honored to work together with such a wonderful group of individuals who care about those who are in need,” Carmen said.

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After retiring from careers in higher education, the couple moved to Oxford in 2021. “After settling in, we looked for places to volunteer to do work that was important to us,” Carmen said. “We approached the Pantry, and John Kohne welcomed us with open arms.”

The Martins have previously supported local and national organizations, including World Central Kitchen, that address food insecurity.

“Supporting the social safety net, particularly mitigating food insecurity, has always been important to us,” Carmen said. “There are many working families in our community that cannot make ends meet, as well as elderly and disabled adults who need additional support. We understand that the food insecurity problem is a systemic one in need of systemic solutions, but in the meantime, individuals and families have immediate needs.”

Each month, a different church is responsible for running the Pantry and bringing volunteers from their congregation. There are also businesses that provide paid time for their workers to volunteer as well as students from the University of Mississippi. 

“These groups together with the regular volunteers, who help year-round, make the Pantry work,” Carmen said. “It is a community effort.”