As this season we are thankful for our blessings, but also keenly aware of the needs of those in our community as well. In this year’s Guide to Giving, local business partnered with charities to help them get their story out about the ways they help and how we can help them continue their mission.
Consider these charities for your end of year giving and support.
By Angela Cutrer
The Pantry in Oxford has been a mainstay in the area for people needing extra help for their families.
In 2020, The Pantry served 30 percent more visitors than ever before, mainly due to COVID-19 pandemic issues. Changes had to be made toward pre-sacked bags to feed a family of four instead of visitors being able to shop for their unique needs.
This past May, The Pantry served 580 families, and in June, The Pantry served 640 families, a significant increase above the normal number.
Those rising numbers are concerning, but not totally unexpected, due to inflation and other unique issues America has been facing, including rebuilding at the pandemic.
In 2021, The Pantry served 5,705 families for a total of 12,500 individuals, said The Pantry’s coordinating director, John Kohne. “In 2022 so far, we’ve already far exceeded that number because of the issues going on in the country,” he said. “Since June, we’ve served 640-680 families, which is 25 percent up more.”
The need is everywhere, but The Pantry can only do so much. “There has been an increase in folks coming to The Pantry from neighboring counties,” said Pantry Publicist Juanita Boutin to the Oxford Eagle about how only residents of Lafayette County can be served, as spelled out in the organization’s by laws. “…The Oxford Pantry keeps a listing of food pantries available in adjoining counties, and we will do our best to direct clients to them.”
The agency is supported by a collaboration among 16 local organizations. All monetary donations go toward refilling The Pantry shelves not benefitting from the Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis and from local venders. Kohne said they are fortunate enough to have had enough contributions, but the holiday season is coming up.
“The bulk of our donations comes from individuals and corporations,” he said. “They really make this thing work.
“Dollars are what we need to keep up with the holidays coming up. That money goes to purchase the other half of our products.”
Main needs revolve around keeping up supplies of soups, hot cereals, canned and dried beans and peas, and canned meat and vegetables. Your donations provide more variety than bulk purchasing.
Donations can be mailed to The Pantry, P.O. Box 588, Oxford MS 38655 or via paypal.me/pantryoxfordms.
OXFORD ANIMAL RESOURCE CENTER
By Angela Cutrer
Animal welfare in Lafayette County and in Oxford is something officials with the Oxford Animal Resource Center take very seriously. They have to.
After recent issues with other animal rescue organizations in the area, Oxford Animal Resource Center had to work doubly hard to build trust between itself and the community. That’s because when an animal is in need, someone trustworthy needs to speak to the issue to ensure proper care, including veterinarian attention, is used to get an animal back on its feet.
“We believe we have gained a lot of respect and positive light from the community over the past year,” said Kelli Briscoe, director of the Oxford Animal Resource Center. “We maintain a professional and sanitary environment for all of the animals in our care. Our upmost goal is to better the lives of every animal that comes through our doors.
“The community is slowly starting to understand our purpose and we believe with time, we can all work together to make the city of Oxford’s animals lives more enriched.”
The Oxford Animal Resource Center is a great place to put your time and your donations to help animals in need. The center believes that any animal from infant to old age needs someone fighting for them to survive.
From Oct. 1, 2021 to Oct. 1, 2022, the Oxford Animal Resource Center took in 779 animals. The breakdown of the outcome is as follows:
- 188 cat adoptions
- 49 returned to field cats
- 9 cats transferred to rescue partner
- 3 cats redeemed
- 289 dog adoptions
- 76 dogs transferred to rescue partner
- 62 dogs redeemed
As of Oct. 17, the center has 131 dogs and cats in its care.
The attitude of those who work at the center is reflected in the center’s mission statement: It is Oxford Animal Resource Center’s mission to provide ethical and humane care for animals while prioritizing live outcome. Our primary goal is to promote quality care and compassion through education, protection, and community outreach.
“We are continuously hosting events such as destressing exercises with the university for students, adoptions with local partners and yappy hour,” Briscoe said of the center’s events. “The public can view all of our upcoming events through our social media pages.
“A mission that we are focusing on over the next year is bringing more awareness to microchipping. Studies have shown that 73 percent of stray animals found their homes back with their families due to being microchipped. The Oxford Animal Resource Center offers this resource for $5, and encourages the community to make an appointment with us to receive one.”
Briscoe said the center could always use more food bowls, beds, milk replacement for kittens and puppies, as well as mini miracle nipples with syringes for feeding newborns.
“We can always use donations for our pet food pantry for our citizens who need financial assistance with pet food, beds and treats,” she added. “All donations we receive go directly back into the community to lend a helping hand to our citizens.”
She said volunteers are always welcomed at the Oxford Animal Resource Center. “The OARC values all of our volunteers and we always welcome new ones,” Briscoe said. “You can find the volunteer application on our website at www.oxfordarc.org.”
MORE THAN A MEAL
By Angela Cutrer
More than a Meal provides dinner for more than 75 people every Tuesday night. The volunteers also hand out toiletries to their guests, as they liked to call the people they meet.
With a mission of serving the people of Oxford with good food, encouragement and a sense of community, More Than a Meal staff members seek to provide friendship as well as meet personal physical needs.
“We offer a warm meal, fellowship, tutoring for children and much, much more,” said Sarah Beth Gary, who adds that the organization has been dedicated since September 2009 to helping those in need from Oxford by serving meals at the Stone Center.
Every week, a church group or other organization provides the meal by preparing a well-balanced nutritious menu for generally about 120 people. Sponsoring groups provide any additional items they may need to make their meal a success, including table decorations for 15 long tables, while More Than a Meal provides plastic gloves for serving and for food preparation, garbage bags and take-out containers.
When it comes to what More than a Meal needs itself, Gary said the group needs paper towels, toilet paper, body wash and shampoo for both men and women, diapers and pull-ups of all sizes, deodorant for both men and women, and lotion.
Volunteers are also needed. Volunteers get to greet visitors at the welcome table, visit with guests, tutor or read to attending children, help distribute toiletries, play and supervise children at the meal and on the playground, create crafts with the children, provide programs or talks to the guests, assist the host group serve the meal and help out in the kitchen.
“Every week we provide a nutritious meal, but we do not stop there,” Gary said. The organization has speakers from local organizations to join them for helpful information giving, entertainment opportunities for artists, arts and crafts projects and health events to screen for problems and to give flu shots.
Other events include simple financial planning and puppet shows from the puppeteers of the Oxford Public Library. Representatives from the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the Oxford Food Pantry have also spoken at More than a Meal events.
“The Oxford community supports More Than a Meal each week by providing meals and toiletries,” Gary added. “We are always in need of keeping our toiletry closet stocked. [However,] I am continuously overwhelmed by the outpour of support. We are so blessed to live in a place that gives so generously.”
Toiletries can be dropped off at the Stone Center on Tuesdays between 4 and 6 p.m. For more information about More Than a Meal, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find them on social media.
LEBONHEUR CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
By Angela Cutrer
The idea for the Oxford Monster’s Ball came to Lauren West Cleary while watching “Hocus Pocus” on the back porch with friends. “Oxford is not short on any galas or cocktail parties, but at the time we did not have an adult costume party around Halloween,” she said. “I thought it was such a creative and fun way to support Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, which has touched so many families in our area.”
An associate broker with Cannon Cleary McGraw, Cleary knew just how important the hospital was to locals, including herself. “My family had already spent time there with my son after a bad fall and worked with the maternal fetal specialist while I was expecting my second child with complications,” she said. “This was even before we found out about my daughter’s heart condition.
“The facilities, the doctors and the care are simply unparalleled. Le Bonheur is so special to me, and I can’t imagine sending my children elsewhere. It truly provides the best pediatric care in the region.
“There’s a wonderful local board, chaired this year by Jennifer Marascalco. They have organized and worked to bring recognition to this worthy cause and to provide access to families who need assistance. Every child deserves the best care.”
Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals, features expert physicians and staff, state-of-the-art technology and family-friendly resources. Part of the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare group of hospitals, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital grew from a partnership with a local group of women, who had begun in 1923 to make clothes for underprivileged children living at Leath Orphanage in Memphis. Calling itself the Le Bonheur [“Happiness”] Club, its membership grew and its focus sharped on attending to the health care needs of children in the orphanage. By providing transportation to doctors’ appointments, the women of Le Bonheur Club became well known to local pediatricians, the hospital’s website reported.
The idea for a hospital dedicated solely to children came up in 1944, when a group called the Memphis Pediatric Society contacted Le Bonheur Club. “After raising $2 million to build the facility, members of the community and Le Bonheur Club gathered on June 15, 1952, to open the doors to the hospital. As Le Bonheur Club’s president released red balloons with keys to the hospital attached, the celebration served as a promise that no child would ever be turned away from Le Bonheur.
“‘The doors of Le Bonheur will never be found closed and will forever hereafter be open to those who come in need, seeking its help,’” said Le Bonheur Club president, Mrs. Howard Pritchard, during the 1952 grand opening.
And the hospital has kept that promise. In the ’70s, Le Bonheur became the primary pediatric teaching partner for The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Department of Pediatrics, in 1995, the hospital joined the Methodist Healthcare family, in 2010 Le Bonheur moved patients into a newly built hospital and by 2011, it was named a Best Children’s Hospital by U.S. News & World Report magazine.
In 2011, its trauma program received Level 1 designation by the American College of Surgeons and in 2020, Le Bonheur Neuroscience Institute’s Dravet syndrome program was named a Dravet Comprehensive Care Center by the Dravet Syndrome Foundation, one of only 13 in the country.
“Since 1952, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital has been taking care of kids from the Mid-South and around the world,” said David Henson of Le Bonheur’s public/community relations. “Le Bonheur provides expert care for children in more than 45 pediatric subspecialties, encompassing robust community programs, a pediatric research institute and regional outpatient centers in Jackson, Tenn., Tupelo, Miss. and Jonesboro, Ark.
“Le Bonheur is a non-for-profit hospital that depends on the generosity of the public to help us serve the more than 500,000 children who need us each year. Every gift helps us improve the lives of children.
“With the help from donors we can ensure that Le Bonheur can help meet the needs of children and their families as well as continuing our innovative research, following emerging trends in pediatric health and reacting to our everchanging world.”
Cleary McGraw especially thanked the Monster Ball’s presenting sponsor, Nicholas Air, for its generosity of sponsoring the hospital.
INTERFAITH COMPASSION MINISTRY
By Angela Cutrer
Since 1999, Interfaith Compassion Ministry has served the Oxford community by helping those who need a hand up when it comes to basic needs.
People come to ICM during or after a crisis, including substance abuse problems, needing legal council, facing homelessness or simply trying to make ends meet.
A program of the United Way, ICM is a collaborative effort among local churches to provide assistance exclusively in Lafayette County and run by Director Lena Wiley.
ICM has 30 to 40 visits per month. The Oxford Police Department will call ICM if a person or a family is evicted, and partner Ole Miss Motel will provide up to three nights of shelter. ICM and the more than 30 churches who support the ministry step in to help the needy find stable footing.
Because the ministry is almost exclusively backed by religious organizations, ICM relies heavily on private donations. In 2017 alone, ICM provided 668 hot meals, helped 236 homeless individuals, helped 2,557 people pay their rent and helped 2,078 pay their utility bills.
Interfaith Compassion Ministry, located at 1918 University Ave., is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. For more information, call 662-281-1002.
By Angela Cutrer
Since 1963, Communicare has served as northern central Mississippi’s community mental health center by providing quality, individualized care to Calhoun, Lafayette, Marshall, Panola, Tate and Yalobusha counties. Its mission is “to deliver caring, professional assistance to people of all ages seeking mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, school-based services, IDD services and 24-hour crisis services.”
The Haven House, a residential treatment facility run by Communicare, welcomed its first resident in August 1978. As the first of its kind in the area, The Haven House’s treatment services originally could house 15 male residents at a time in its repurposed church building in rural Lafayette County. Treatment ranged from 30 to 90 days.
By the time of its first anniversary, The Haven House served 94 people, and by 2001, the organization moved into its own state-of-the-art, 48-bed facility off Highway 7 in Oxford. This new building meant The Haven House could serve both men and women suffering from addition.
The Haven House now treats more than 300 individuals a year, helped by a staff of both medical professionals and master’s level therapists.
The Haven House also provides treatment for clients suffering from both substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders.
Services include residential substance abuse treatment, medicated assisted treatment, withdrawal management services, intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment, recovery support service, outpatient substance abuse treatment and sober living.
For more information, call 662-234-7237.
By Angela Cutrer
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of North Mississippi, as do all CASA organizations, advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children through the service of trained, court-appointed community volunteers called “advocates.”
CASA names as its purpose as one “to train volunteers to advocate for the best interest of children in court proceedings to ensure every child is in a safe and permanent home.”
As an important part of the LOU community, CASA volunteers speak for abused and neglected children who are placed in foster care.
Its core values revolve around helping children, having a highly trained volunteer advocacy, providing service, using a collaborative alliance and good leadership, and serving the community.
CASA recruits, trains and supervisors volunteer advocates, who are prepared through a 30-hour pre-service training before being sworn in by the youth court judge. That judge then appoints a CASA advocate to be a particular child’s voice court.
These advocates work with many different people and entities to ensure the quality of care of children. The volunteers speak with officials from court, those from the Guardian Ad Litem program and officials from the Department of Human Services to help provide children with a safe and healthy environment.
Advocates work hard to see the entirety of a child’s life while accompanying them on parental visits, court, doctors and school. CASA also supports foster children by helping pay for other needs, such as psychological assessments, therapy, bedding, clothing, and equipment for extracurricular activities.
CASA of Lafayette County has been a nonprofit since 2018 and has been partially funded by grants in the past. However, financial support is now desperately needed from community members and businesses, who have always been so generous in the past.
Volunteer advocates for children in foster care in Lafayette County are also still a big CASA need. The right people for the job should have a desire to help the most vulnerable of children, want to ensure the safety and protection of the children they serve, and agree to training, interviews, an extensive screening process, as well as to providing references and undergoing background checks.
To donate, visit www.casaoflafayettecounty.com. To volunteer, call 662-832-4747 or email email@example.com for more information.
CANOPY CHILDREN’S SOLUTIONS
By Angela Cutrer
It’s been more than a 100 years since Canopy Children’s Solutions opened its doors to supply the needs of vulnerable children. Whether it’s helping children find loving homes to later soothing victims of trauma and emotional challenges, Canopy is the pioneer of finding solutions to help Mississippi’s children and families.
Canopy’s devoted staff ensures every child they meet has the tools for success. With more than 500 mental health behaviors health experts, educators and social service professionals all throughout the state, Canopy’s driving force to help suffering children is sponsored by community partners who believe in the mission to ensure kids thrive.
Canopy Children’s Solutions is Mississippi’s largest nonprofit provider of behavioral health, educational and social service solutions. Founded in 1912, Canopy offers a full array of integrated, community-based services in all 82 counties as well as intensive campus-based and educational programming.
By working with law enforcement, Child Protection Services, mental or medical health professionals and many other organizations, Canopy provides a wide range of services to help children and their families overcome extraordinary challenges and to thrive.
Mississippi’s 24-hour child abuse hotline (1-800-222-8000) allows any person who suspects a child is being abused to file an anonymous report. If you see something, say something. The physical, mental and emotional well-being of abused children relies on adults who will advocate for their safety and healing.
For more information on Canopy Children’s Solutions, visit their website at: mycanopy.org.
PALMER HOME FOR CHILDREN
By Angela Cutrer
Palmer Home for Children was founded in 1895 as a small orphanage for needy children. Now, almost 127 years later, Palmer Home has expanded into a multi-faceted faith-based nonprofit that aids children of all ages.
Located on a 150-acre Panther Creek Ranch campus, Palmer Home sports cottages headed by house parents. That sense of home can help children feel comfortable while receiving personalized educational and therapeutic services to build their knowledge as well as their moral and social skills within a Christ-centered family atmosphere.
Not satisfied with staying still and letting the years flow past them, Palmer Home’s officials continue to search for more ways to help vulnerable children while instilling a love of God. The home expanded its scope of services to other types of care for children who need extra help.
This means there are now four distinct care settings arranged to meet the necessaries of each child they serve throughout the various stages of their lives they’ll meet. The four services include campus care, foster care, family care and transitional care.
Campus care: Children live on a campus family atmosphere connected to trustworthy adults.
Foster care: Children receive support and a family connection through Palmer Home’s certified foster families.
Family care: Infants of mothers in prison receive nurturing care with the goal of reunification; staff also offers support for the mothers after release.
Transitional care: Young adults receive guidance about education, careers and life skills needed for independence.
This is all done at The Dr. Hugh Francis, Jr. Wellness Center, a 25,000-square foot facility with classrooms, counseling suites, therapy rooms and recreational areas. It’s a space for hope and healing in accordance with Palmer Home’s “Whole Child Initiative.” This initiative states that Palmer Home’s “proprietary approach to care provides a trauma informed, holistic and relationally centered foundation and guides” all they do. They seek to help vulnerable children overcome trauma and position them to thrive in home, school and community life.
The Whole Child Initiative operates through four core principles: whole story, whole child, whole team and whole caregiver. This guarantees that a “whole” child can benefit from the wholeness of his or her world and those who inhabit it.
Last year, Palmer’s Home celebrated these milestones:
- 250 children served
- 15 incarcerated mothers served through family care
- 26 reunifications to biological families
- 3 high school graduations
- 5 college graduations
- 3 young adults in the military
- 10 young adults in college
Palmer Home for Children is completely donor based. It receives no state or federal funding – everything they do, they do through you. Whether it is a monthly gift or a one-time one, Palmer Home will use those funds from individuals, corporations, organizations and groups to help children be children, families get back together after tragedy and teens with getting ready for college or the military – the list goes on.
If you are looking for a mission this holiday season, consider Palmer Home. Your donation means one of your loved ones will receive a holiday card from Palmer Home, thanking them for the donation made in their name.
To learn more about Palmer Home for Children, visit palmerhome.org.
BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB OF NORTH MISSISSIPPI
By Angela Cutrer
Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi seeks to fill the gap between school and home by providing welcoming, positive environments for children and teens. The staff want to create places where kids can have fun, can participate in life-changing programs and can build supportive relationships with peers and caring adults.
The organization’s mission is “to inspire and enable all young people to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.”
Every day, 63,413 Mississippi children go unsupervised after school, risking being unguided and unsafe until a parent returns home. In Mississippi, after school programs provided expanded learning opportunities to 70,558 students as a lifeline for working families, according to afterschoolalliance.org.
That’s why the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi boasts five clubhouses, including the L.O.U. Barskdale Boys & Girls Clubhouse in Oxford, as well as two in Tupelo, one in Ripley and one in New Albany.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi welcomed 377 children on an average day after school in the last year and served 54,574 meals and snacks to those attendees. Almost 940 youth were served, and 95 percent of club members are minority races, with 59 percent being male and 41 percent being female.
Around 31 percent were teens, 69 percent aged 12 and younger, 88 percent qualified for free or reduced lunch and 56 percent lived in single-parent households.
At the L.O.U. Barskdale Boys & Girls Clubhouse in Oxford last year, 239 youth were served, with 19,195 meals and snacks provided. Minority races counted for 96 percent, with 32 percent of the attendees being teens and 68 percent aged 12 and under.
Activities include sporting lessons and support services such as tutoring, mentoring and good old-fashioned supportive relationships. By helping youth feel positive about themselves at home and at school, the organization’s staff feel it is important in building confidence and helping the children make good decisions to reach their true potentials.
The Oxford Boys & Girls Club has a 100 percent high school graduation rate. “I love being at the Boys & Girls Club,” said member and volunteer Cianna Davis on the club’s website. “It really helps me stay academically focused.”
Oxford and its surrounding communities always rally around to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi, and the clubs – and the children they serve – appreciate that help. Monetary donations are in dire need at this time so that activity fees and supplies may be paid, as well as utilities and transportation costs. Community members are encouraged to donate snack foods, gift cards and cleaning supplies.
To donate, contact the L.O.U. Barksdale Boys & Girls Clubhouse at bgcnms.org. Monetary donations can be made through BGCMS.org. Follow the clubs on Facebook at Boys and Girls Clubs of North Mississippi for more information.
By Wayne Andrews and Angela Cutrer
The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, YAC to most residents, will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the next 12 months.
Founded in 1975, YAC is an organization committed to a diverse offering of artistic and cultural opportunities in and around Oxford. Each year, YAC creates and delivers a package of projects, programs and good works in the spirit of its mission to the community. The board and volunteers work to present more than 300 days of art programs, ranging from student programs, exhibits by emerging artists, live theater productions, concerts, classes and independent film screenings.
The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council serves as a hub in the region, supporting artists and programs, and managing spaces that supported ongoing contributions to the arts, literature and community development.
YAC’s support of 20 thriving arts and cultural organizations was reflected in the 221,000 people who attended events generating just under $11 million of economic impact in the community and supporting 148 jobs annually. The Arts Council served as a starting point assisting many of Lafayette County’s signature events in building their programs.
The Powerhouse Community Arts Center – the overhead of managing the building is underwritten by YAC – provides a home for Theatre Oxford, Hinge Dance Company and Thacker Mountain Radio. While these important cultural organizations fill the evening with a wide range of programs from a weekly radio show, modern dance and the annual 10 Minute Play Festival, the staff uses the facility to host programs that focus on teaching creatives how to grow as a business.
The Arts Council has created a proposal for a physical humanities hub as a facility that will offer artists and creatives studio and living space, ensuring creatives have a place in the community. These interactive spaces for classes, workshops and conferences will be a place to connect to the people, voices and stories that have shaped our community and make them part of a shared future, said Wayne Andrews, executive director of the Arts Council.
YAC’s membership drive is one of the key fundraising tools to enable free art camps for children in the summer, concerts in the Grove, live music at The Powerhouse, a rotating schedule of free art exhibits and equipment to present live productions by Theatre Oxford, Leda Swan and others at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center.
To donate or for more information, call 662-236-6429 or visit http://www.oxfordarts.com/.